July 30, 1999
LOS ANGELES - Bob Larsen, who at the conclusion of the 1998-99 school year completed his 15th season as UCLA's men's track and field head coach and 20th year as the Bruins' men's cross country head coach, is retiring. Effective August 1, long-time Bruin assistant Art Venegas, who is regarded as one of the premier throwing coaches in the world, will be named UCLA's new men's head track and field coach.
Although stepping down as men's head track and field coach, Larsen will not leave the Bruin program until the end of the next academic year. He will continue to serve as the UCLA men's cross country head coach through the 1999 season and will then be an assistant with the men's track and field team through June 30, 2000.
"Under Bob Larsen, the UCLA men's track and field program has continued its heritage of consistently contending for NCAA and Pac-10 honors," said UCLA Athletic Director Peter T. Dalis. "As a long-time UCLA assistant coach, Art Venegas has proven throughout the years that in the throwing events, he's one of the best coaches in the world. We are pleased and fortunate to have Art take the reins to continue our men's track and field successes."
In his 15 seasons as the UCLA men's track and field head coach, Larsen led the Bruins to two NCAA Outdoor Championships (1987 and '88), nine Top-10 outdoor national finishes, including seven in the 1990s, and nine Pacific-10 titles, including a streak in the 1990s of five (1992-96) consecutive conference crowns. In dual competition under Larsen, the Bruins were named the nation's top dual meet team on four occasions (1996-88-87-86). He led the Bruins to a remarkable dual meet record of 118-3-1, including an overall dual winning streak of 58 meets, from 1993-99 and a home dual meet winning streak of 51, from 1991-99. Under Larsen, the Bruins defeated archrival USC 15 straight seasons (UCLA has a current win streak over USC of 21 consecutive dual wins, dating back to 1978).
A distance specialist, Larsen led the Bruin men's cross country team to two (1980, '81) Pacific-10 titles and six NCAA appearances, including fifth-place finishes in 1980 and '81.
Larsen's recent star pupil has been Mebrahtom Keflezighi, the greatest distance runner in Bruin history. During his UCLA career (1995-98), Meb won four NCAA titles (1997- indoor 5000m, outdoor 5000m/10,000m, cross country) and set school records in the 5000m (13:26.85) and 10,000m (28:16.79).
In 1999, the Bruins garnered two NCAA relay titles. At the NCAA Indoor, UCLA set the American Record (9:33.17) in the distance medley relay and at the NCAA Outdoor, the Bruins won the 4 X 400m relay (3:02.12, No. 4 in school history). UCLA returns most of its squad from 1999, making the outlook bright for the coming season.
"I want to thank Pete Dalis and the administration for being so supportive of our track and field program during my tenure as head coach," said Larsen. "I'm excited about coaching one final season with our talented and long-term staff in place."
Larsen, 60, is a four-time National Coach of the Year (track and field (3), 1995-88-87, cross country (1), 1980). He's an 11-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year (track and field (9)-1998, 1992-96, 1987-89, cross country (2)-1980-81). In 1997, Larsen was inducted into the Mt. SAC Relays Coaches Hall of Fame and in '96, he was enshrined into the CA Community College Cross Country and Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Before coming to UCLA in 1979, from 1979-84 Larsen was Bruin head coach Jim Bush's top assistant, Larsen was the head coach at Grossmont Community College.
Venegas just completed his 18th season at UCLA as the Bruin men's and women's throwing events coach. Since his arrival at UCLA in 1981, Venegas has coached his Bruin throwers to an unprecedented 26 NCAA individual indoor and outdoor titles. In the Pac-10, Venegas has guided his UCLA men and women throwers to conference titles in all four throwing events. In the 1990s, UCLA throwers won 35 conference crowns.
Two of his current standouts are John Godina and Seilala Sua. While at UCLA, Godina won the NCAA Outdoor shot put and discus titles in 1995 and set the collegiate record in the shot put (72-2 1/4). Since leaving UCLA and still under Venegas' tutelage, Godina has won two (1997, '95) World Championships in the shot put and earned a silver medal in the shot put at the 1996 Olympics.
Sua, who will be a senior this season at UCLA, is the three-time defending NCAA and two-time defending USA discus champion and also won the shot put last spring at the NCAA Outdoor.
Both Godina and Sua will be competing at the upcoming World Championships, held next month in Seville, Spain.
In October 1998, Venegas, 47, was named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U. S. by Hispanic Business Magazine . Since coming to UCLA, Venegas has become a world-renowned speaker at coaching clinics, specializing in the throws and strength and conditioning.
Prior to coming to UCLA, Venegas coached at Long Beach State (1980-81) and at his alma mater, CS Northridge (1976-79).
"I want to thank Betsy Stephenson, Pete Dalis and the UCLA administration for giving me this opportunity," Venegas said. "I'm thrilled to be following in the footsteps of three great UCLA men's track and field coaches--Ducky Drake, Jim Bush and Bob Larsen. Our staff wants to continue the championship tradition these three coaches established. This is a great opportunity for us to have continuity in our program and our coaching staff during a transition year."