Mika Laaksonen will enter his eighth season as head coach after he was named to the position on April 14, 2010. Prior, Laaksonen served 12 years as assistant coach under legendary USTFCCCA Hall of Fame coach Bob Kitchens.
During his time as an assistant coach, Laaksonen coached two NCAA champions in the javelin and 22 All-Americans in the shot put, hammer and javelin.
Last year, Laaksonen earned the 2016 C-USA Indoor Coach of the Year, making it his fourth consecutive coach of the year honor. Laaksonen led the women to its second consecutive C-USA Indoor Championship title with a final tally of 120 points, outscoring WKU by 14 points.
Under Laaksonen, freshman Tobi Amusan helped surge UTEP to another team title after she won gold with a personal-best time of 8.23 in the 60m hurdles, while Brittney Trought finished second (8.37). Amusan’s success carried over to the outdoor season, breaking a 33-year old record with a time of 12.83 clocked in at the UTEP Invitational. Her time was the second-fastest time ever run by an athlete under the age of 20 in the world and is both a Nigerian and African Junior record. Amusan concluded the season earning the 2016 C-USA Track Athlete of the Year honors. Amusan became the second Miner since Blessing Okagbare (2010) to earn the prestigious award. Amusan went on to compete in the 100m hurdles at the IAAF U20 Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
At the 2016 C-USA Indoor Championships, Lilian Koech won the mile, while Nickevea Wilson won the triple jump (12.92m/42-4.75). Wilson went on to compete at the NCAA Championships, and earned All-American second team honors. Wilson was named the 2016 USTFCCCAA Mountain Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year after registering the 10th best leap in the nation of 13.22m (43-4.5).
Laaksonen also mentored newcomer Lucia Mokrasova, who made her first appearance at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the heptathlon and garnered All-American second team honors. During the indoor season, the sophomore claimed the school record in the pentathlon with 3,950 points registered in the Texas A&M Invitational. Mokrasova went on to claim the crown at the C-USA Indoor Championships in the pentathlon.
Laaksonen was named the 2015 C-USA Indoor Coach of the Year. This time it was for securing the first women’s team conference title in program history. The women’s team claimed gold at the C-USA Indoor Championships with a final tally of 122 points; they outscored second place Western Kentucky by more than 30 points.
He guided both the men’s and women’s team to a silver finish at the 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships hosted in El Paso.
He also instructed junior Samantha Hall and freshman Rasmus Maukonen to NCAA Championship appearances. Hall, who throws the discus, set a school record (58.50m) at the NCAA West Preliminaries and ended up earning second team All-America honors at the NCAA Championships with a 13th-place finish.
Maukonen captured three individual titles during his freshman campaign and tallied a bronze medal at the C-USA Championships in the javelin throw. He garnered All-America honorable mention at the NCAA Championships with a javelin throw of 65.52m to place 20th.
Laaksonen was named the 2014 C-USA Indoor Coach of the Year. Garnering the honor for a second consecutive season, he guided the Miners to a C-USA men's indoor title for the first time since 2006. UTEP claimed the crown with 123 points, a 45.5-point advantage over second place, LA Tech.
Laaksonen went on to pilot both the men's and women's team to a silver finish in the 2014 C-USA Outdoor Championships. The UTEP women collected seven medals posting the best finish since 2010 while the men finished with six overall.
He coached freshman Samantha Hall to bronze-medal toss of 52.49m (172-02) at the 2014 C-USA Outdoor Championships leading her to qualify for the 2014 NCAA West Preliminary Championship. Laaksonen also coached Taylor Gunn to eight top-five marks this season, guiding Gunn to her second appearance at the NCAA West Preliminary Championship.
Under Laaksonen's instruction five individuals and one relay team advanced to the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships, including heptathlete Jallycia Pearson who went on to post a personal-best of 40.27m (132-1) in the javelin. Pearson placed 15th overall at the national meet.
In 2013, Laaksonen directed the Orange and Blue to a C-USA men's title for the first time since 2008. UTEP secured the crown with 166.50 points, upsetting 2012 C-USA Champion Houston. He also mentored five individuals and one relay team that qualified for the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In 2011, Laaksonen led freshman Richard Olsson to a silver finish at the Conference USA Championships in the javelin with a mark of 67.94m (222-11). Olsson advanced to the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships and finished 24th in the javelin with a mark of 64.67m (212-2).
During the 2010 outdoor season, Laaksonen directed Anna Wessman to a third-place showing in the javelin and Dimitrios Fylladitakis to fourth place in the hammer at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors.
In addition, Laaksonen guided All-American Keisha Walkes to a seventh-place outcome in the shot put at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In 2007, he coached Erma Gene Evans to a runner-up finish in the javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championship, earning her All-America status, after she took gold at the conference and regional levels. Evans hit her season best of 56.45 at the conference meet.
In 2006, he coached five Conference USA champions and one NCAA All-American. Laaksonen had Nina Schvedoff break the school record in the 20-pound weight throw (18.37; 60-3 1/4) and Evans topple the Saint Lucia national record in the javelin (55.00; 180-5). His conference champions included Schvedoff (weight and hammer), Correy Harrison (discus), van der Merwe (javelin) and Evans (javelin).
In 2005, Laaksonen guided Harrison -- a walk-on -- to qualification for the NCAA Championships in the discus. Harrison was the 2005 WAC champion in the event and placed fourth at the 2005 NCAA Mountain Regional. He also worked with Schvedoff, who broke the school record in the 20-pound weight throw and won the conference title and Kaisa Kiintonen, who was the conference champion in the hammer. Both Schvedoff and Kiintonen were national qualifiers in the hammer as well.
In 2001, Laaksonen trained three more All-Americans during the outdoor season in Vesa Jäppinen (second, javelin), Vartia (fourth, hammer) and Anne-Laure Gremillet (eighth, hammer). Vartia and Jäppinen won Western Athletic Conference titles during the outdoor season. Vartia (third, hammer) and Mats Nilsson (fourth, javelin) gained All-America honors in 2000.
Laaksonen coached Matti Närhi to the javelin national title in 1999, and Angeliki Tsiolakoudi to the 2000 title. Along the way, Laaksonen helped both throwers attain school records and the all-time conference marks in the javelin. Tsiolakoudi also established a then-collegiate record in the event with a toss of 197-8 (60.26).
In his first season as a coach, he worked with All-Americans Ilmari Verho (sixth, hammer) and Tepa Reinikainen (seventh, shot put).
A former UTEP student-athlete and 1992 NCAA hammer champion, Laaksonen primarily works with the throwers and assists with recruiting.
Laaksonen grew up in Finland and spent two years at the University of Technology in Lappeenranta, Finland, where he majored in industrial economics before transferring to UTEP. He was an instant factor as a Miner, winning the 1992 NCAA Championship in both the 35-pound weight throw indoors and the hammer throw outdoors.
Laaksonen repeated his All-American performance in 1993, placing second in the hammer at NCAA's. His throw of 244-3 (74.44) still ranks second all-time among Miner athletes. Following the completion of his eligibility at UTEP, Laaksonen competed in several competitions abroad, including the 1994 European Championships and the 1995 World Championships. While coach Laaksonen no longer throws the hammer competitively, he did finish in the top 50 in the world in 1996 and 1997, including recording a career best of 250-1 (76.22) in 1996.
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