Long Beach State Commands Track and Field Awards Haul
2016 Awards Release
Both Long Beach State programs took home the bulk of the 2016 Big West Track and Field awards, announced today following a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches.
In all, the 49ers corralled five of the eight major awards. Men’s champion Long Beach State featured Willie Alexander as Field Athlete of the Year, Coach of the Year Andy Sythe and Freshman of the Year Kemonie Briggs. The 49er women witnessed the selection of Riley Cooks as Field Athlete of the Year and Courtne’ Davis as Freshman of the Year. Other marquee awards included UC Irvine’s Lloyd Sicard and UC Santa Barbara’s Shyan Vaziri sharing Men’s Track Athlete of the Year honors, while Tori Tsolis of UCSB claimed Women’s Track Athlete of the Year hardware. Rahn Sheffield of Big West champion UC Davis earned Coach of the Year accolades on the women’s side.
Alexander earned his second straight Field Athlete of the Year designation, joining former 49er Chris Richardson (2006, 2008) as the only individuals in Big West history to twice win the award. The senior scored a school record 42 points at the conference meet to help LBSU secure its fourth straight title. In addition to becoming a two-time champion in the triple jump, posting a winning mark of 50 feet, 8 inches, Alexander racked up runner-up finishes in the 4x100 relay, 100-meters, 200-meters and long jump. The native of Fresno, Calif. expanded upon his school record in the long jump by a quarter of an inch as he cleared 25-10.25. A three-time recipient of Big West Athlete of the Week honors this season, Alexander earned Athlete of the Meet recognition for his performance at the championship. Solely a horizontal jumper prior to his senior year, Alexander joined the sprinting corps this season and ran season-bests of 10.48 in the 100m and 21.29 in the 200m at Jack Rose Track last week.
For the first time since 2011, the Big West named co-Track Athletes of the Year in Lloyd Sicard and Shyan Vaziri. Sicard, a junior from Gardena, Calif., successfully defended his 110-meter hurdles title at the Big West Championship in 13.64 seconds. It was the second-fastest winning time in the history of the conference meet that began in 1970, and Sicard nearly broke the record, one that has stood since 1976, missing by a mere five-tenths of a second. Sicard’s time also ranks 14th-best in the nation this year. The 2014 Big West Freshman of the Year, Sicard is the second Anteater to receive the Track Athlete of the Year award behind three-time winner Charles Jock. Winner of Track Athlete of the Week honors twice this season, Sicard also helped both relay teams to top three finishes at the conference meet.
Vaziri became the second distance runner at UC Santa Barbara to capture the highest conference track honor – Ryan Martin was also a co-recipient in 2011. Vaziri won his first conference championship race – in the 800-meters – edging a competitive field with a time of 1:50.45. He was the first Gaucho 800 champion since Martin last won in 2011. Vaziri also nearly pulled off the double, falling .58 short of gold in the 1500-meters and settling for a second-place finish in 3:49.76. Vaziri, a two-time winner of Track Athlete of the Week honors this season, posted the conference’s top 800m mark on May 7 at the Oxy Invitational when he ran a 1:48.70.
Andy Sythe guided Long Beach State to its fourth consecutive Big West men’s championship, seventh during his tenure and the program’s 10th overall. He is the conference’s top coach for the fourth straight year, and seventh overall, tying him for second all-time in Big West history. The 10 titles tie former member Fresno State for the most in Big West history. Sythe’s championship runs have all occurred since 2006, a remarkable seven in 11 years. Sythe’s troops claimed six gold medals at the championship meet, which took place on LBSU’s recent multi-million dollar renovated Jack Rose Track. The strength of his dominant field events corps was on display again as a 49er took first place in the hammer, long jump, pole vault and triple jump. LBSU’s men’s program is currently ranked No. 7 in the West region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Long Beach State awards procession continued with the selection of Kemonie Briggs as the fourth 49er in school history to be named top freshman, the first since teammate Alexander in 2013. Briggs, recruited by LBSU as a highly touted sprinter, ultimately made his mark in the jumps in 2016. He posted a wind-aided lifetime-best mark of 26-02.25 in the long jump at the Big West meet, picking up 10 important points for the 49ers. Briggs was the first athlete to reach 26 feet at the conference championships since 1984, and his mark stands as the fourth-farthest in the country in 2016. The Long Beach native made his long jump debut on April 8 at the Big West Challenge and promptly cleared 24-0.75. Still a prominent factor in the sprints, Briggs contributed to LBSU’s first-place 4x100 relay finish (3.11.99) at the Big West meet, as well as third place in the 400-meters (47.83), fifth place in the 200-meters (21.31), and second in the 4x100 meter relay (40.64).
Tori Tsolis (San Jose, Calif./Presentation HS) garnered UC Santa Barbara’s third Women’s Track Athlete of the Year award behind Kylie McCuen (2005) and back-to-back honoree Stephanie Rothstein (2006, 2007). The senior middle distance runner set a school record on April 14 when she covered the 1,500 meters in 4:19.02, a Big West leading time that earned her Track Athlete of the Week honors. Tsolis also etched her name in the record book as the first Gaucho in school history to capture the 1,500m title at the Big West Championship, taking first place in 4:20.53. She strove for double gold at the conference meet but her 800-meter time of 2:12.36 landed her in third place.
Long Beach State junior Riley Cooks (Coarsegold, Calif./Cuesta College) made a significant impact in claiming the Field Athlete of the Year award in her first outdoor season at the collegiate level. She is the second 49er, and the first since Ami Goldhammer in 2004, to collect the honor. Cooks developed into one of the nation’s top heptathlon performers. Her 5,569 points accumulated at the Mar. 24 UC Riverside Spring Break Invitational placed her 23rd on the national list entering next week’s NCAA West Preliminary. Cooks followed up with a winning total of 5,414 points in the Big West Multi-Events portion of the conference meet, becoming the first LBSU athlete since Goldhammer in 2004 to claim gold in the heptathlon. Her overall versatility came in handy later on in that meet, with second place finishes in the 100-meter hurdles and 200 meters, and a fourth place showing in the long jump, which resulted in Cooks gaining 31 points for the 49ers and the designation as Women’s Athlete of the Meet.
Rahn Sheffield has continued the dominance set forth by his predecessor, Drew Wartenburg, as the second-year UC Davis mentor secured his first Coach of the Year honor. Sheffield guided the Aggie women to their fourth Big West title in five years last weekend. The four titles rank second-most among current conference members, and UC Davis has accomplished the feat in a short nine-year period. In collecting 129.5 points and outdueling three other teams that had the lead in sight going into the final three scoring events, Sheffield’s balanced roster helped bring the Aggies to victory. His athletes recorded at least one point in 16 of 21 scored events, and the scoring breakdown featured 58 points from the distance runners, 29 from the sprinters and 40.5 from the throwers and jumpers.
Courtne’ Davis (Riverside, Calif./Eleanor Roosevelt HS) is the second Long Beach State female Freshman of the Year recipient since the award’s creation in 2005 – the other being Phylicia Johnson in 2008. Davis impacted the Big West sprinting scene as the heir apparent to three-time Track Athlete of the Year Ashley Marshall of UC Davis, winner of the 100 and 200 meters at the Big West Championships for three straight years. Davis followed suit as this year’s conference meet champion in both events, clocking 11.50 in the 100m and 23.65 in the 200m. Both times were wind-aided lifetime-bests. She became the first 49er in the 33-year history of the Big West Women’s Championship to grab gold in the 100m, and the first member of the program to take first in the 200m since Cathy Roberts in 1988.
All nine honorees turn their attention next to the NCAA West Preliminary regional meet May 26-28 at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kan. The meet will feature the top-48 student-athletes in each event west of the Mississippi River.
2016 BIG WEST TRACK & FIELD AWARDS
MEN’S TRACK CO-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Lloyd Sicard, UC Irvine
Shyan Vaziri, UC Santa Barbara
MEN’S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Willie Alexander, Long Beach State
MEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Kemonie Briggs, Long Beach State
MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
Andy Sythe, Long Beach State
WOMEN’S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Tori Tsolis, UC Santa Barbara
WOMEN’S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Riley Cooks, Long Beach State
WOMEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Courtne’ Davis, Long Beach State
WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
Rahn Sheffield, UC Davis