For Kirk Pedersen, his arrival to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg in the mid-1980s wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a pit stop on the way back to rural Iowa.

There he was, a college graduate in need of a job, so he figured a graduate assistant role for UCM track and field would do for now.

“I thought I’d be there two years, maybe help a little,” Pedersen said, “and then spend the rest of my life on the farm.”

Instead, he has spent 32 seasons at UCM – all as head coach of the cross country program and 23 seasons as co-head coach of the track & field program. And his successes are why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Pedersen with the Class of 2019.

Eleven Mules cross country teams have won Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) championships in the past 24 years, with 11 consecutive Top 25 finishes (1996-2007) at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. Three of his women’s cross country teams have won the MIAA, with Pedersen a 13-time MIAA Cross Country Coach of the Year.

Pedersen’s 1995 and 1997 men’s teams were D-II national runners-up, with the 1996 team producing an individual national champion in Alexandr Alexin.

Meanwhile, Pedersen and co-head coach Kip Janvrin have guided the track & field program since 1994, with the most significant accomplishment in 2015.

That’s when the UCM women’s program won the NCAA Division II Indoor in March and then captured the NCAA D-II Outdoor Championships in May.

Call it the reward, too, for carefully and meticulously building a program instead of job-hopping, with recruiting focusing largely on in-state athletes.

“It was important to us, with the name Central Missouri,” Pedersen said, “that the program represent Missouri.”

Competitive running has long been in Pedersen’s DNA anyway. He is a 1985 graduate of Simpson College in Iowa, where he was an NCAA Division III All-American and won the 800 meters in the indoor season as a senior. (He was later inducted into its Hall of Fame.)

After college, he moved to Phoenix before being encouraged to apply for UCM’s graduate assistant position.

And talk about toughing it out. Married, Pedersen worked a number of jobs just to make ends meet, including at the nearby golf course. He was promoted to head coach of the cross country programs in short order but was Les Stevens’ assistant in track for 10 years, mostly as a part-time hire.

“It has made a big impact on my life,” Pedersen said. “To come here to Warrensburg and be a head coach, the sun was definitely shining.”

Along the way, he recommended Stevens hire Janvrin, a Simpson College standout himself who dominated at the prestigious Drake Relays and was becoming one of the most successful decathletes in the country.

Pedersen and Janvrin have led the UCM men to 17 MIAA Indoor and 13 Outdoor championships. In the past 12 years, the coaches have garnered 15 MIAA Coach of the Year awards, adding 11 more Coach of the Year honors in the outdoor seasons.

In 2002 and 2015, Pedersen and Janvrin were also named the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) Indoor Coaches of the Year and the 2015 National Outdoor Coaches of the Year.

That 2015 season will never be forgotten.

The Jennies won the Indoor title by taking over the lead on the next-to-last event of the meet, which began with UCM competing in 11 events and showcasing 10 athletes ranked in the Top 10 of their respective events.

The Jennies won the 2015 Outdoor national title thanks to two individual champions and five others earning All-American honors.

“It just fell into our laps,” Pedersen said. “(Weeks earlier) some people kept saying, ‘You could be national champions.’ I said, ‘No way. Not until we get there.’”

Pedersen had reason to be cautious. In the early 2000s, one of UCM’s best teams athletically fell apart at the MIAA championships, with disqualifications, dropped batons, you name it. It has served as a motivator ever since.

In 2017, Pedersen received the Jimmy Carnes Distinguished Service Award from the USTFCCCA. He also is thankful to have support of his wife, Jill, and twins, daughter Jodi and son J.D., and daughter Amber.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me to help take care of (UCM cross country and track),” Pedersen said. “Part of the success comes from a lot of other people, from the administration to Central Missouri itself.”