Paul KurtzDirector of Cross Country
Alma Mater: Messiah College (1990)
Office Phone: 863-667-5100
Paul Kurtz begins his second season at the helm of the Fire cross country programs which began in 2012.
Kurtz started both of the Southeastern cross country teams from scratch. In the first meet for the women’s team, the Fire failed to have a runner break 23:00 in the 5K. Over the course of the next two months under Kurtz direction, the women developed a pack mentality and ran to a third place finish at The Sun Conference Championship meet, dropping 10 minutes off of their total time. The Fire placed four runners in the top 25 at the meet.
On the men’s side, Kurtz worked his magic on the 3-4-5 runners in the lineup and helped them all to drop at least four minutes off of their time. As a team, they finished sixth in their first Sun Conference Championship meet, placing three runners in the top 30.
The Fire also enjoyed success in the classroom with both squads being named NAIA and NCCAA Scholar Teams. A total of six women and two men were named NAIA, NCCAA, and Sun Conference Scholar-Athletes. Bethany Jones and Alex Emrich were named Sun Conference Champions of Character Award recipients and were named CoSIDA CapitalOne Academic All-District.
Before coming to Lakeland, Kurtz served as the head men's cross country and track & field coach for Roberts Wesleyan University (N.Y.) from 1991-2010. In 1998, he was named the women's cross country coach while also assisting the women's track & field program as an assistant coach.
In just his third season with the Redhawks, Kurtz led his men’s program to the 1993 NCCAA Championship, while being named the 1993 NCCAA National Coach of the Year.
During his 20 year tenure at Roberts Wesleyan, he coached 18 Individual National Champions, 51 All–Americans, and over 200 Scholar Athletes within the NAIA and NCCAA. Also, nine times he led the Raiders to a Top 5 national finish within the NCCAA National Championships, and seven times his teams placed at NAIA Nationals, including one Top 10 national finish.
In addition, Kurtz coached future Olympian, Jen Suhr during her freshman year in the high jump at Roberts Wesleyan College. Suhr would later pick up the pole vault during her senior year at Roberts and is now considered the No. 1 ranked women's pole vaulter in the World.
In 2008, she won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, and in 2012 was the gold medal winner at the London games. Track & Field News named her American Female Athlete of the Year for 2008.
Four of his players have also won the prestigious Wheeler Award, given to one outstanding student athlete in cross country by the NCCAA.
He also served as the American Mideast Conference Cross Country Sports Chair from 2002-2010, and as the NCCAA Sports Chair from 1997-2000.
Collegiately, Kurtz was one of Messiah College’s top runners from 1988-1990. He earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1990. In 1997, he earned a second degree, this time from Roberts Wesleyan in nursing. Kurtz has 12 years of experience in Cardiac Rehabilitation, training patients following cardiac events back to a healthy lifestyle.
Kurtz has a USA Track and Field Level I Coaching Certification, and is a member of the USA Track & Field/Cross Country and the NAIA Cross Country and Track & Field Coaches Associations.
Kurtz is still an active runner today, running marathons and training with his teams. He and his wife, Susanne, have four children, and reside in Lakeland.