Named in honor of former Yale University coach and 1964 Olympic Team head coach Robert Giegengack, the award goes to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development and success of USA Track & Field and the larger community of the sport. In the past, the award has gone to coaches, officials, Association leaders, administrators, and others from all segments of USATF. The USATF Board of Directors votes to select each year’s winner.
Larsen, who retired in 1999 as head coach of the UCLA cross country program after 21 seasons, and who led the Bruins track and field program for 15 seasons, became a co-founder of the highly successful Team USA Running Group. Now known as the Mammoth Track Club, the Mammoth, Calif.-based elite team’s goal has been to bring U.S. distance running performances back to the level of international success that was seen in the 1970s and 80s.
Since beginning operations in March of 2001, the Mammoth Track Club has produced multiple national champions, set numerous records and has placed a number of its athletes on U.S. Olympic and world championship teams.
Larsen’s star pupil is 2004 Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist and U.S. 10,000m record holder Meb Keflezighi, who Larsen began mentoring when both were at UCLA. As a Bruin, Keflezighi won four NCAA titles as a junior in 1997 — cross country, indoor 5000m, and outdoor 5000/10,000m (becoming the eighth athlete in NCAA history to win this double) — and he became the third athlete in NCAA history to win the outdoor double and the cross country title in the same season (1997).
Keflezighi received worldwide attention when earlier this year he became the first American man since 1982 to cross the finish line first at the ING New York City Marathon. Keflezighi ran a brilliant strategic race, pulling away from four-time Boston Marathon Champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya in the final two miles to win in a personal-best time of 2:09:15. The win gave Keflezighi the USA Marathon Championship and his fourth national title of the year. His performance also placed him atop the USA Running Circuit rankings for 2009.
At UCLA, Larsen was the head cross country coach for 21 seasons and head track coach for 15 seasons. His track and field teams won two NCAA Outdoor titles, and he was named national coach of the year in 1987, 1988 and 1995. The nine-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year, Larsen was named the NCAA National Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1980.
Under Larsen, the Bruins had a remarkable dual meet record of 118-3-1; 12 unbeaten seasons, including five of his last six years (the Bruins were 10-0 in 1998, ’97 and ’96, 8-0 in 1995 and 9-0 in 1994), with home dual winning streaks of 31 (1971-76), 32 (1979-83), 39 (1984-89) and 51 (1991-99). During his 15 years as head coach, Larsen never lost to archrival USC in dual competition.
“Bob Larsen is one of the most respected and deserving coaches in our sport,” said USATF Chairman and President Stephanie Hightower. “I am proud to have this opportunity to recognize him for his many accomplishments.”
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