Hollie Walton’s relationship with Johnson & Wales University began in September of 1970. The start of the 2018 campaign marks his 24nd season at the helm of the Wildcats cross country program.
A graduate of Hope High School in Providence, Walton set the Rhode Island state record for the mile run in the fall of 1969 in a time of 4:13.2. That record was to stand for the next 27 years. By the time Walton’s mark fell, he had become one of the most storied runners in state history, and had embarked on a successful career at Johnson & Wales.
He was named head cross country coach at JWU in 1995, where his team won the very first Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship of any kind in November of that year. Walton has now coached 14 GNAC championship teams; including eight men’s titles and six women’s championships. He was the first coach to win both the men’s and women’s GNAC titles in the same year (1996), and was named the conference’s coach of the year in 2014. His record-shattering men’s team won the GNAC crown and finished third at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 2010.
After graduating from Hope, Walton enrolled at Johnson & Wales, which was then a junior college. In his freshman year, running for the legendary Colonel John McNulty, Walton was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American after leading the Wildcats to a sixth-place finish at the 1971 NJCAA national championships. A year later, Johnson & Wales finished third nationally behind Walton, who earned his second NJCAA All-America selection.
Walton’s next stop was El Paso, Texas. After his graduation from Johnson & Wales Junior College, he and his UTEP teammates won the 1973 NCAA Division I national cross-country championship. Walton was again named an All-American. From UTEP, Walton returned home to Providence and became a top marathoner.
Coach Walton has also been an integral part of the university’s intramural program since his initial hiring 41 years ago.