Paul Thornton
Paul  Thornton

Northfield, Minn.

Associate Head Coach

Alma Mater:
St. Olaf


‘U’ Claims Fourth-Straight Border Battle Title

The Gophers, who have now won all four dual competitions with the Badgers since the event returned to the schedule in 2015, earned nine event titles on the day.


Gophers Head South For NCAA West Preliminary Meet

23 student-athletes to compete


Track Ready for Big Ten Championships

Looking for first title since 2010


DMR Breaks School Record at Drake Relays

Second straight DMR title for Minnesota at Drake


4x800 Relay Wins Second Consecutive Title at Drake Relays

Tough conditions on the track not a factor for Gophers' 4x800


2015 Golden Bear Twilight

2015 Golden Bear Twilight

Now entering his 10th overall season with the Gophers coaching staff, Paul Thornton begins his second season as associate head coach in 2018. 

“Paul is an invaluable member to our coaching staff and our program, and he is a big part of the success we have had here,” Minnesota director of men's track & field and cross country Steve Plasencia said. “He’s a tireless worker who contributes to our team in every way possible. Coaching, recruiting, logistical planning – Paul is the whole package.”

Thornton continues to oversee the Maroon & Gold’s sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and multi-event athletes. He has coached his student-athletes to a total of 53 All-America honors and 16 individual Big Ten titles including 2015 NCAA heptathlon champion, two-time First Team All-American and school heptathlon record holder Luca Wieland. He was also instrumental in the development and success of Harun Abda – the most decorated All-American in program history with 13 accolades as well as six Big Ten titles and six school records.

Thornton helped Minnesota to three-straight Big Ten indoor titles (2009-11) and back-to-back Big Ten outdoor titles (2009-10).

“Every day, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that Steve gave me to be part of this amazing staff and program,” Thornton said. “The University of Minnesota has become a home to our family, and we are incredibly thankful to be surrounded by some of the most dedicated student-athletes and staff members in the country.”

During his second season at Minnesota, Thornton was honored by his peers earning Midwest Region Men's Assistant Coach of the Year acclaim by the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association for the indoor season.

Thornton, a Northfield, Minn., native, came to Minnesota after five years as the head men's and women's head track coach at Washington University in St. Louis, a powerful NCAA Division III program. The Bears' women's team placed third at the 2008 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships andThornton was recognized as the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Midwest Region Coach of the Year.

During Thornton's tenure, Washington won 14 University Athletic Association (UAA) team titles. The women's team captured UAA titles in nine of the 10 championships (indoor and outdoor) contested during his reign with the Bears. The Bears swept the men's and women's UAA team titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Thornton spent three seasons as the head men's and women's track & field coach at St. Mary's (Minn.) before moving to Washington. He started his coaching career at Illinois State, first as a graduate assistant, then as an assistant coach and finally with four seasons as ISU's associate head coach (1996-2000).

Thornton was a three-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC) honoree during his collegiate track career at St. Olaf. He helped the Oles' 4x400-meter relay to an NCAA Championships appearance in 1993 and was voted the team's most valuable runner. Thornton earned four varsity letters in both cross country and track at St. Olaf, while being coached by his father Bill. He earned a bachelor's degree in sports science in 1993.

Thornton, who earned a master's degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics from Illinois State in 1995, and his wife Julie have two children, Marisa and Zach.


'U' Returns to West Coast for NCAA Prelims

'U' Returns to West Coast for NCAA Prelims

5/23/2018 - M. Track & Field

The University of Minnesota men's track & field program returns to action this weekend, competing at the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field West Preliminary in Sacramento, Calif.

`U' to Compete in 10 Events at Prelims

`U' to Compete in 10 Events at Prelims

5/17/2018 - M. Track & Field

Outdoor All-Americans Obsa Ali and Jackson Wellenstein lead the Maroon & Gold into competition with the action slated to run May 24-26 at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium.

Gophers Finish Seventh at B1G Meet

Gophers Finish Seventh at B1G Meet

5/13/2018 - M. Track & Field

Minnesota returns to action with the 2018 NCAA West Preliminary, May 24-26, in Sacramento, Calif.

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