Orange County native Kirby Shepherd taking coaching step up at UT-Tyler

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, July 19, 2022

TYLER – There is no question former Bridge City cross country and track standout Kirby Shepherd has loved those sports.

He proved it by winning a slew of medals during his high school career and in his college run at Southern Arkansas. He has also proven it as a coach at the collegiate level. He served as the head cross country coach the last six years at Jacksonville Junior College and helped start the Jacksonville track program as the head coach the last three years.

Just last week, Shepherd, a 2011 Bridge City graduate, found out some great news.

The University of Texas at Tyler cross country and track & field added the Bridge City native to the coaching staff as an assistant coach.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity, for sure,” said Shepherd. “UT-Tyler is a NCAA Division II school, and it’s going to be great to coach at the NCAA level. UT-Tyler has upwards to 11,000 students. I was used to around 500 or a little more total at Jacksonville. I am excited to learn from Coach David Kaiser and Coach Nick Anthony and to help continue the success of the cross country and track & field programs. This opportunity is truly a blessing, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Shepherd led the Jacksonville College Jaguars to three consecutive regional championships for their women’s cross country program in 2016-18 and back-to-back men’s regional titles in 2016-2017. Both programs also finished top 25 at the national meet in 2020 and 2021.

“I’m so grateful that Jacksonville College gave me such a great opportunity and had so much faith in me,” said Shepherd. “We’ve had some tremendous talent that came through there and some amazing kids. Kids, that reached the junior college national stage. As a coach, there is nothing quite like seeing the kids that come through and they transfer to outstanding NCAA programs.”

As head track & field coach for the Jaguars, Shepherd led the men’s team to a top 25 national ranking over the 2022 season, and the men’s 4×400 relay team finished eighth nationally.

“To build a track program, that was very exciting,” said Shepherd. “The first year was tough because we had to deal with COVID. 2021 was our building year. Last season was awesome, though, to see all of their hard work pay off. We just had a solid overall team that wanted to excel and they went out and did it.”

UT-Tyler coach David Kaiser said he is very excited to have Coach Shepherd join the team.

Kaiser noted Shepherd’s tremendous work ethic, passion for the sport and desire to see UT Tyler challenge for conference and national accolades.

“I am looking forward to Coach Shepherd working along Coach (Nick) Anthony and myself to spearhead strong recruiting efforts to get our distance program, as well as our track & field programs, elevated among the top of the Lone Star Conference and the NCAA ranks quickly,” Kaiser said. “He brings outstanding organizational and recruiting skills, and we are looking forward to having Coach Shepherd on board.”

Shepherd was a tremendous cross country runner and track standout for Bridge City, and went on to have a very successful collegiate career in cross country and in the mid-distance category at Southern Arkansas University.

At Southern Arkansas, he was a part of a cross country program that finished no worse than third in the GAC Championships from 2012-2015.

As a member of the track & field program at Southern Arkansas, Shepherd posted several top five finishes over his career in the 1500 meters, 800 meters, the 4×400 relay, the 4×1600 relay and the distance medley relay.

He still stays in pretty could shape, running and keeping up with the kids he coaches.

“I’m no where near where I was in high school or college,” joked Shepherd. “I do still run quite a bit to keep the blood flowing. Meets, they always keep me moving, running from event to event.”

Shepherd graduated in the spring of 2015 with a Bachelor of Business Administration-Management from Southern Arkansas University and completed his Master of Science-Kinesiology with a concentration on coaching in the summer of 2020 from Southern Arkansas University.