The world’s greatest athletes took center stage with MSUM's own Rahn Sheffield guiding the way as the head coach for Team U.S.A. and the women’s sprints and hurdles coach. World records were set and gold medals were won when the United States track and field team topped the medal count in Istanbul, Turkey, March 9-11.
Sheffield thinks the U.S. is number one for a reason. “I believe that it is because we are a defiant nation,” Sheffield said. “We are defiant of the word impossible. We have dismissed it as an option.” This is Sheffield’s second trip to the World Indoor Championships. Under his direction, this year’s U.S.A. women’s track and field team earned three gold medals, two silver and four bronze. Team U.S.A. as a whole totaled 18 medals; 10 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze. “I told them all, ‘When we put that U.S.A. uniform on, we forfeit our right to be human,’” Sheffield said. “These veteran athletes are the gate keepers, responsible for keeping America's great track and field tradition alive.”Brittney Reese was down to her final leap in the long jump, trailing the leader by only 0.06m. With that last jump, Reese broke the World Championship record and won the gold medal with a leap of 7.23m. After Chaunte Lowe completed a high jump of 1.98m, she did not even realize she had won. An official had to walk over and tell her the gold medal was hers.Sanya Richards-Ross entered her first World Indoor Championships. The newcomer could have been mistaken for a seasoned athlete as she took the gold medal in the 400m. Sheffield believes deeply in the power of the human mind. He says physical capabilities can only bring an athlete so far. The extra push comes from the mental aspect. “You capture a great moment by creating an environment that is conducive for greatness and letting the human spirit do the rest.” Sheffield gained wisdom and experience from the memorable event, and he is eager to bring his newly gained knowledge to the student-athletes of MSUM. An aggressive atmosphere is what Sheffield thinks is needed to help the Dragons’ team reach the next level for a national championship. “Champions aren't made in humble environments. They are made in hostile environments.”
One thing Sheffield and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) both study closely is the connection between biomechanics and conditioning. Through the study of biomechanics, Sheffield initiated and developed a new hurdle technique for the 100m/400m hurdles.
“The key to my success has been in the implementation of my philosophy to incorporate speed and conditioning in alignment with science and biomechanical awareness,” said Sheffield about the correlation.
Sheffield studied biomechanics at San Diego State University and has applied it to the development of both collegiate and professional athletes alike. Since 1986, he has been a personal trainer and consultant to National Football League athletes. Some high-profile clients include 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya, and the San Diego Padres.
Sheffield's real passion comes in the grooming of student-athletes. “I can have more impact on student-athletes than professionals because with professionals, all I would do is train them and they'd be on their way,” Sheffield said. “Here I can help the student-athletes academically and educate them about the fundamentals and science of track.”
The Dragons took home both the indoor and outdoor Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles last season. The team finished third at the NSIC Indoor Championships on Feb. 24, 2012. MSUM still holds the title as reigning outdoor champions but trail only Minnesota State Mankato in the 2012 Preseason Coaches Poll. Sheffield thinks that with the appropriate mindset and physical training, champions can and should result from the Dragons track and field team.Collin Boyles, Sports Information Coordinator