A friend of a friend-Pardon Ndlovu and Gary Aycock-February 11

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 11, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

In my role as Director of Athletics I am proud of a lot hiring decisions that UNC Pembroke Athletics made during that 15 year period of time. I got to be surrounded by some pretty awesome coaches and support staff. A number of these individuals turned into friends that I really admire.

One of those coaches was Gary Aycock who served in a number of roles for UNC Pembroke Athletics including Compliance Director, Assistant Track Coach, Head Cross-Country Coach, and Head Track & Field Coach.

I first met Gary in the early 2000’s when he came to UNCP as a non-traditional student seeking a second degree. I told him he probably was one of the two best students I ever had. He was coaching cross-county at the time at nearby St. Andrew’s College and wanted to get a physical education degree. He had previously graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in criminal justice.

How Gary became the coach at St. Andrews is a story in itself as he was hired as campus police officer and boldly told the AD at the time he could coach runners better than the current coach. Well that coach left and Gary was given the chance and he succeeded.

In the summer of 2008 I was able to hire Gary away from St. Andrews to become the Compliance Director and to assume duties as assistant coach for the Braves cross-country and track & field programs. In 2009 he became the Head Coach of the Cross-Country Team. Prior to coming to Pembroke Gary had great success at St. Andrews and I knew he would do the same for UNCP. I was right.

Aycock has been the St. Andrews Knights’ cross-country head coach for the six years, leading both the men’s and women’s teams to their most successful era in the program’s NCAA Division II history both on race paths and in the classroom. Aycock, a Scotland county native, served as the Knights’ assistant coach in 2001-02. He has also served as the head track and field coach since the inception of the program in 2005.

Gary was the 2005 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference & 2006 Southeast Region coach of the year at SAPC, Aycock has guided the Knights’ cross country teams to countless individual and team milestones in his six seasons at the helm.

On the men’s side, Aycock led St. Andrews to its first-ever conference title in 2005 and first-ever Southeast Region crown in 2006. Under his guidance, the men’s teams won nine races and had nine other runner-up finishes. Aycock led the Knights to their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the Southeast and qualified the men’s team for the NCAA Division II national championships in both 2005 and 2006.

Aycock recruited the CVAC freshman of the year in three consecutive seasons (Chris Miller in 2004, Mitch Cooper in 2005 and Pedro Tapia Jr. in 2006). Aycock has coached 15 all-conference, nine all-region, and six runners of the week.

In 2014 Gary decided to retire from college coaching and spend more time with family by taking a position at Richmond Community College.

He accomplished a lot at UNCP and recruited exceptionally well. One of those recruits is someone he is very close to and just recently qualified for the 2016 Olympics. That athletes name was Pardon Ndlovu..

Some of the highlights included UNCP being represented at the either the men’s or women’s national cross county championship meet in four out of the five seasons he was coach, including a team appearance by the women in 2011 – the first team berth for a UNCP squad in school history.

You can read about some of Gary’s accomplishments at the links below


It was Gary’s friendship and coaching relationship with future 2016 Olympian Pardon Ndlovu that really impressed me.


Gary Aycock

The Friend of the Friend-PARDON NDLOVU


Gary Aycock and Pardon Ndlovu

Gary recruited Pardon from Zimbabwe with two things working against him. He and Pardon had never met and Pardon had never seen UNC Pembroke. Gary overcame all the obstacles and recruited one of the most decorated student athletes in Pembroke’s rich Track and Field History.

The stories of Pardon first two days at UNCP are legendary. Making the transition from Zimbabwe to North Carolina wasn’t easy but Gary with lots of help from other in the Pembroke family helped him get settled.

A four-year starter in the UNCP lineup, Ndhlovu exited Pembroke as one of the most decorated student-athletes in any sport. He is a four-time NCAA All-American – twice in cross-country and track and field – and also has a slew of academic awards on his resume as well. He was a member of the 2011 and 2012 CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-American squad and has twice been named to the USTFCCCA all-academic team as well. The Zimbabwe native could not have ended his career with the UNCP Braves in any other fashion than claiming all-American status in the 5,000m run with a time of 14:47.62 for a seventh place finish at the 2013 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  At the inaugural 2013 Peach Belt Conference Track and Field Championships, the three-time all-conference runner became race champion in the 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m runs, while also being named a two-time conference track athlete of the week and PBC Track Athlete of the Year.

Pardon Ndhlovu, made his childhood dream a reality as he sprinted across the finish line of the 2015 Chevron Houston Marathon with a time of 2:16:51 to achieve an Olympic qualifying time for his native county of Zimbabwe on Sunday January 18th.  The time meets the “B” qualifying standard (2:18:00) for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials and all but ensures that Ndhlovu will be entered into the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro by the Olympic committee in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe entered two marathoners into the London 2012 games, including Cuthbert Nyasango who finished seventh with a time of 2:12:08.

To coach an Olympian is quite a feat-to be a friend with an Olympian is even greater.



  1. Gary Aycock · · Reply

    Just saw this and am honored! Thanks Coach!

    1. You were a wonderful choice to become a coach at UNCP.

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