Kebba Tolbert is in his ninth season as the women’s sprints/hurdles and horizontal jumps coach for Harvard in 2019-20 and eighth as associate head coach of the squad.
Tolbert helped guide the team to a No. 1 northeast region ranking throughout the entirety of the 2019-20 indoor season. Tolbert helped Kelisa Cain move into second in the Harvard record books in the 60m, while helping Katina Martin move into second in the 200m. First-year Mayi Hughes found her way into the record book, ranking fifth all time in the triple jump. At Ivy League Heps, Tolbert helped guide Katina Martin to two Ivy League titles, winning the 60m and the 200m. His group contributed a total of 79 points to the team’s 126 points at Indoor Heps.
The 2018-19 campaign led to unprecedented success for the squad led by Tolbert. The Colby College alumnus guided junior Simi Fajemisin to Second Team All-America status in the Indoor Triple Jump, placing 14th in the country. Tolbert helped Fajemisin to become the first All-American from Harvard in the event. She also was named the Ivy League Female Athlete of the Year at Indoor Heps, after breaking her own program record. The Crimson women placed first through fifth at the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in the 100m Dash, an unprecedented feat in the history of the Ivy League Heps. Ngozi Musa led the group with an 11.67(5), narrowly edging out Olivia Okoli, who ran an 11.67(8). Then, sisters Tina (11.78) and Katina Martin (11.80) finished in third and fourth, while Kelisa Cain finished fifth in 11.86 seconds. Each sprinter earned All-Ivy League honors. With the win, Musa completed a sweep of the short sprints at Heps, as she captured the Indoor 60m Dash just weeks earlier at the Gordon Indoor Track.
2018 was an award-winning season for Tolbert as he was named USTFCCCA Northeast Region Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year. Tolbert mentored sprinter Gabby Thomas, who became the first Ivy League women’s sprinter to win an indoor national championship in the 200m, setting a new collegiate record with her 22.38 mark in the final event heat of the NCAA Division Indoor Track and Field Championships at Texas A&M.He saw his group score 101 of 114 points (with six event wins) in a runner-up finish at Ivy League Outdoor Heps. Tolbert’s group set school records this outdoor season in the 100m, 200m, triple jump, and 100m hurdles. They also set Ivy records in the 100m and 200m, and qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary Meet in the 100m, 200m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, long jump and triple jump.
It was another record-breaking year for Tolbert’s group in 2017 – two of Harvard’s four competitors at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were coached by Kebba: Zoe Hughes (pentathlon) and Gabby Thomas (200m). Thomas earned 1st Team All-America honors, the first Ivy League sprinter to reach an NCAA final, while Hughes earned 2nd Team distinction. Thomas set new school marks in the 60m (7.29s) and 200m (22.88) at Indoor Heps, and Simi Fajemisin broke school records in the long jump (6.09m) and triple jump (12.96m) at Indoor Heps. The success continued during the outdoor season – Thomas earned USTFCCCA First Team All-America distinction, placing third at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 200m, while senior Jade Miller also earned USTFCCCA First Team All-America honors, placing sixth at the NCAA Outdoor Meet. Tolbert guided Harvard’s sprinters, hurdlers, and horizontal jumpers to historic feats and contributed 117 of the team’s 164 points to win a fourth straight Ivy Outdoor Heps title. Eight of the team’s 10 Heps titles came in events that Tolbert coaches (100m, 200m, 400m hurdles, long jump, triple jump, heptathlon, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay). Tolbert was again named the USTFCCCA Northeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year for the outdoor campaign, his third in-a-row.
Tolbert’s team reached new heights in 2016, with three student-athletes earning both All-America nods and invitations to the USATF Olympic Trials. Gabby Thomas rewrote the sprinting record books, breaking the top marks in the indoor 60 meters and outdoor 100- and 200-meter runs, while Autumne Franklin established a firm grasp on the top 100- and 400-meter hurdle records. The school and conference records in the sprint relays were also shattered in 2016. Tolbert was named the USTFCCCA Northeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year for the outdoor campaign, his second in-a-row.
Tolbert continued to show in 2015 that he is among the best coahes in the country in his events, as his athletes accounted for 52 of Harvard’s 125 winning points at Indoor Heps. That accomplishment earned him USTFCCCA Northeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year. Senior Danielle Barbian earned Track Performer of the Meet at Indoor Heps, winning the 60m dash in an Ivy League record time, while also running the second fastest time in the in conference history in the 200m. During the outdoor season, Autumne Franklin and Jade Miller both collected All-America honors in the 400m hurdles.
Tolbert was vital to the success of the 2013-14 season. Tolbert’s athletes scored 83 of the Crimson’s 162 points at the outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. Jade Miller and Autumne Franklin qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 400m hurdles and two of his athletes broke school and Ivy all-time outdoor records (Danielle Barbian in the 100m dash and the women’s 4×1).
2012-13 saw the Harvard women’s sprinters/hurdlers and jumpers take tremendous strides under Tolbert’s tutelage. The indoor season saw the Harvard women capture their first league title since 2000, thanks in large part to Tolbert’s group. The sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers combined for seven All-Ivy League accolades at the indoor championships alone, led by Autumne Franklin ’16, who earned three. The 4×400 relay team also took home All-Ivy honors in the championship performance. Tolbert also mentored Martina Salander ’16, who capped the women’s indoor season with an All-America showing in the pentathlon, breaking the Ivy League record in the event.
In the outdoor season, Tolbert aided Franklin and Mary Hirst ’13 to All-America showings in the 400 hurdles and high jump, respectively. Hirst soared to new heights under Tolbert’s teaching, earning Co-Most Outstanding Field Performer of the Meet at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships, claiming league titles in the high jump and heptathlon. Tolbert’s 4×400 relay squad was also stellar, re-setting the school record in the event multiple times throughout the season.
In his first year with the program, Tolbert helped the Crimson sprinters and hurdlers make a significant impact. After helping the men’s outdoor squad to a third-place finish at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships, its best finish in a decade, Tolbert saw the women’s 4×400 relay team break the school record twice in 24 hours at the ECAC Championships. Tolbert also helped four men’s sprinters break into the all-time program top 10 list in the 60-meter dash alone.
Tolbert began his coaching career at Iowa Wesleyan and produced 21 All-Americans and the school’s first national champions. During his tenure, his athletes set 25 school records, 21 conference records and broke two national marks.
Tolbert spent two seasons at Mckendree as associate head coach, helping the team to three national titles and coaching athletes to 18 national championships.
After his stint at Mckendree, Tolbert joined Syracuse’s program as an assistant coach. During his time with the Orange, Tolbert added two NCAA qualifiers, one USATF qualifier and an All-American along with several school records to his coaching resume.
In 2003 Tolbert joined Portland State as head coach of the track and field and cross country teams. Tolbert found great success with the Vikings as his teams consistently had top finishes in the Big Sky conference indoor and outdoor championships and the highest point totals in school history. Athletes would once again find great success under Tolbert, producing eight PSU Athletes of the Year, 22 Big Sky Champions and 79 All-Big Sky honors recipients.
Tolbert joined the coaching staff at UTEP in 2008 and made an immediate impact on the Miner’s squad, finishing his coaching career there with two athletes qualifying for the NCAA championships. Under his tutelage, the program saw four NCAA titles and seven All-America awards. He also helped coach UTEP’s first women’s individual All-Americans in the sprints since 1999 and the first women’s NCAA Champions since 2001.
A graduate of Colby College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Tolbert earned his Master of Arts degree in exercise science in 1996 from Smith.