UC Davis hires a four-time Olympic track athlete of Brazil in place of Elizondo
Aggie coach continues to put pieces in place to keep UC Davis at top of the Big West
Rahn Sheffield, who led numerous San Diego State athletes to All-America honors during his 23-year tenure with the Aztecs program, enters his second season with the Aggies but his first as the Director of Cross Country and Track and Field after serving as an assistant track coach in 2014.
His first year was a memorable one for Sheffield who sprinters and hurdlers helped the women's team capture their third straight Big West Conference championship and then men earn third. Standout Ashley Marshall successfully defended her 100- and 200-meter titles, was named the Big West Women's Track Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season, and was subsequently presented with the Heitman Award as the top UC Davis female athlete for 2013-14. She later advanced to the NCAA Finals for the second straight year.
Cekarri Nixon set a school record in the 400 (53.26) last season and six career-best marks were set by his athletes on the women's team. His men's athletes also achieved success with eight career-best times established, including Kaio Sena (10.42), Sava Boyadjiev (10.45) and Marcus Johnson (10.48) taking the second through fourth spots on the program's all-time 100 list, a ledger that had just one new member since 2007.
Besides Marshall's two wins, Nixon (400), Kellie Grigg (400H), Johnson (100) and Karl Moran (400H) also won Big West titles last May. The men's 4x100, which along with the women's relay set school records in 2014, won the Aggies' first-ever Big West championship in the event as well.
Sheffield began as an assistant coach at SDSU in 1984 and then was elevated to head coach in 1991. He retired from the position in 2008 after achieving tremendous success which included 78 Aztecs qualifying for the NCAA Championships, 19 earning All-America honors and three capturing individual national championships.
Additionally, nearly 30 of his athletes competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials and four advanced to the Olympics.
"We are very pleased to be able to bring someone with the breadth and depth of Rahn's background to complete our staff for the 2013-14 year," said former Aggie head coach Drew Wartenburg upon Sheffield's hiring. "Rahn's coaching accomplishments on the regional, national and international levels will provide a valuable asset to the program. Our challenge from this point forward is to bolster the strong components of our sprint and hurdle group while also working to raise the level in areas where improvement can make an immediate impact on the overall strength of the team."
Sheffield led his team to several outstanding finishes, including the 2003 Mountain West Conference outdoor championship when the Aztecs ended BYU's 21-year championship reign. His final two seasons featured top-10 finishes at the NCAA West Regionals. Sheffield was a three-time conference coach of the year.
His expertise also extends beyond the collegiate borders with several of his athletes making names for themselves on the international stage. One of his more notable athletes was his sister, LaTanya Sheffield, who competed in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics during a career that spanned through the 2000 Olympic Trials.
"UC Davis has elite students," Sheffield said. "I'm here to help us have elite athletes as well. The University of California system is attractive on its own. The mental aspect is the most important part of training for an athlete. That will allow them to compete at a higher collegiate level."
Sheffield's recognition in the track and field community, particularly as a coach whose unique rotation hurdling technique has been noted by the Olympic Development Committee, has already helped focus attention on the Aggies' program as a destination for hurdlers.
Sheffield earned his undergraduate degree from San Diego State in 1980 after enjoying a track and field career that resulted into two All-America honors.