Jan. 15, 2009
By Ben Foutz
In just his first year coaching at Long Beach State, Raul Sheen led four of LBSU's sprinters to the NCAA Outdoor Championships this past spring. Realizing the potential of the young coach, the UW made an immediate priority of bringing Sheen to Seattle -- a move that Husky sprinters couldn't be more excited about.
"The way he motivates us, I think it's going to be a really great year," said senior sprinter/hurdler Falesha Ankton. "I have a lot of confidence in him. He had so much success at Long Beach last year and I think he can work with our teams and make sure we have a lot of success."
Sheen plans on doing exactly that.
Aside from the beautiful weather, the new Husky sprints coach says that he's excited to return to his native Northwest because of the undeniable surge of energy at the University of Washington.
"Across the board -- but especially in the track and field program -- this is an exciting time for the University of Washington," said Sheen. "The staff is really young and energetic. They're passionate about the sport. They're passionate about being good. Just to be a part of a progressive program that can be a top-10 national power for a long time, it's amazing. This is where I want to be."
This is where the Husky sprinters want him, as well. After suffering through a disappointing 2008 -- by his own standards -- senior Joe Turner feels rejuvenated in the presence of his new coach.
"Coach Sheen is just so much different," said Turner. "The coach last year just never connected with me on a sprinter's level. I didn't feel like he knew how to coach me. But with Coach Sheen coming in, he has so much knowledge in sprinting as far as techniques and mobility work. After working with him, I feel like he's a perfect fit for the UW. And I'm not the only one."
Even the youngest Huskies are believers in Sheen and his methods. His most appreciated trait as a coach, freshman sprinter Lindsay Finch said, is his relaxed, personable demeanor.
"All of our practices are really laid back," Finch said. "He's really understanding about us as individuals, too. Like if your body isn't feeling too good, he can be very accommodating about what exactly you should do over the next couple days to get yourself feeling better."
It isn't a rarity for Sheen's runners to be sore, either. His workout schedule varies from week to week, ensuring that his runners stay balanced and enthusiastic.
While the obvious and broad aim is always to be competitive at the Pac-10 level, Sheen explains that the key is for his runners to improve this year. It is clear that they are making great strides, using the accomplishments of the national title-winning women's cross country team as motivation.
But Sheen admits that he does have his sights set on the national level.
"One of my biggest goals -- because I love the relays -- is for both relay teams to make it to the national meet," Sheen said. "That would be my ideal goal. Can we do that this year? Well, we're going to work as hard as we can to get there and we'll see."
Working hard is exactly what the team has been doing in their offseason, and it has unleashed a new philosophy at practice. That philosophy is "beast mode."
"Beast mode," Turner said, "is the mentality that when you step onto the field, you turn into a beast. You don't care. You have unlimited strength. You're a beast. Do as the beasts do."
Turner greatly believes that his new coach is allowing the UW sprint teams to enter beast mode -- something that, he says, was absent prior to Sheen's arrival.
Because the sprints group is so young -- the women, for example, have just two runners who have been at the UW for more than two years -- the potential for growth is extremely high. So, as Sheen continues to develop his young sprinters, take note.
He's not coaching runners. He's taming beasts.