Aug. 25, 2005
UCLA Men's Track Head Coach Art Venegas and Bruin Women's Head Coach Jeanette Bolden announced several coaching changes to the UCLA track programs on Thursday. Jumps Coach Robert Johnson will be heading to Eugene, OR to take over the jumps program at the University of Oregon, former NCAA Champion and Bruin alum Seilala Sua will take over the reigns of the women's throws program, and former Bruin Scott Abbott has been hired to assist with the cross country/distance team.
In just two short years with the Bruins, Johnson has brought the jumps program back into the national spotlight, highlighted by Candice Baucham. This past year, Johnson coached Baucham to the NCAA outdoor title in the triple jump (46-2, school record/NCAA Meet record/American Collegiate record). Baucham also earned All-American honors in the long jump at the NCAA Outdoor meet with a fourth-place finish in that event, as well as indoor All-American honors in the triple.
Several other athletes have excelled under Johnson's tutelage, including Renee Williams (long jump), Dominique Easterling (all jumps), Michael Johnson (TJ) and Demetre Howard (TJ). Williams had one of the top long jumps in the nation during the 2004 indoor season (21-1.50) and earned indoor All-American honors, while the trio of male jumpers added several points to the Bruins' second-place Pac-10 finish as all scored in the triple jump.
"We really are thrilled with what Robert did for us during his two years in Westwood," said Venegas. " We are happy with his results as both a coach and mentor to his athletes. He's left us with a wonderful base from which to develop our program. We wish him luck in his new position at Oregon."
"Coach Johnson will truly be missed," said Bolden. "He brought a lot of life back into our jumps program and we wish him all the best and much success in his new adventure with the University of Oregon."
"It was a great opportunity to come to UCLA after being at Appalachian State," said Johnson. "I appreciate Coach Venegas, Coach Bolden and Bob Field (Associate Athletic Director) for giving me a chance and the freedom to implement and develop my program. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. Jeanette has been great, supporting me in every way, giving me every resource necessary to be successful. As you can see on both the men and women's side, everyone improved and I'm very proud of that. My four male freshmen posted personal bests in their first collegiate season, while the women also showed improvement, resulting in an NCAA title and meet record (Baucham, TJ).
"I will be moving into another situation, like the one I had at UCLA, a program that has a great head coach and director (Vin Lananna)," said Johnson. "It was a very tough decision and one of those you hate to have to make, but it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up professionally."
Coach Venegas decided after the 2005 season to step aside from the women's throws program to put all of his focus into the men's team. The logical fit was Sua, the most decorated women's collegiate thrower in NCAA history.
"The decision for Seilala to take over the women's throws program was made to insure the athletes received more personalized attention," said Venegas. "Seilala expressed an interest in making coaching her career and I thought it was a great opportunity for her to get started. I will continue coaching the women's multi-event athletes in the throws (heptathletes), but Seilala will be independent of my program with the men. All of the decisions in regards to the women's throwers will be made by her, but I will always be there to assist and mentor her if she asks."
"Seilala brings a great tradition with her to the throws program as one of the finest throwers and athletes in UCLA history," said Bolden. "Her exploits as a thrower, as well as a professional athlete, will bring something extra to the Bruin program."
While at UCLA (1997-2000), Sua won a combined seven NCAA Outdoor and Indoor individual throwing titles. She became only the second women in Outdoor history to win four straight discus crowns. Sua was also a six time Pac-10 champion in the throws.
Sua is a two-time Olympian, having competed in the discus at the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games. In 2001, she became the first woman champion since 1994 to double in the shot put and discus at the USA Outdoor Championships, and is a two-time World Outdoor Championships competitor ('05, '01). She will continue to train while she coaches.
"I'm really excited and looking forward to working with the girls who are currently on the team, as well as bringing in some new ones to continue the UCLA tradition of great throwing," said Sua. "I am honored that they chose me. I think we have great potential with the athletes we have now to bring more national titles to the women's throws team."
Abbott joins UCLA after spending time as the head coach for Jesuit High School in Sacramento. While at Jesuit, he coached the team to the 2002 State Cross Country Championship. He also served as coach at Bend High School in Bend, OR where his team also won a state title in 2001. Abbott also served on the United State Olympic Committee Coaching Division in 1999.While at UCLA, Abbott served as a team captain for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, and was a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic team member and two-time UCLA Track Student-Athlete of the Year. Abbott prepped at Jesuit HS where he led his team to three California State Team championships, and was named All-State and All-West in 1995.
"I am very excited that Scott will be joining our staff," said Head Cross Country Coach Eric Peterson. "He is an energetic, enthusiastic young man with a lot of coaching talent. He was a great team captain for us when he ran for UCLA and Scott has been an incredibly strong and loyal employee in different camps I have worked with the past few years. He will add a lot to our program, assisting with cross country and working primarily with the 5,000m, 10,000m and steeplechase runners in the spring."
While working at UCLA, Abbott will also be working towards a Masters Degree in Sports Management from the University of San Francisco.