No current or former Ohio State track and field athletes qualified for the 2012 London Olympics, but the Buckeyes’ newest track and field coach did.
Khadevis Robinson, who competed in the 800-meter run in London and also at the 2004 Athens Games, was announced as an assistant coach for OSU women’s track and field on Aug. 30. Robinson will lead the cross-country program and coach the track and field team’s distance runners.
Before accepting the OSU position, Robinson had served in the same coaching capacity at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for the men’s and women’s teams since January 2011. Under his guidance, junior Kelsey Williamson earned indoor and outdoor 800 meter Mountain West Conference indoor track and field championship titles, while senior Brett Zorich qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the same event.
OSU women’s track and field coach Karen Dennis said she was impressed by what Robinson achieved in his time at UNLV, and believes it will translate to success at OSU.
“When I looked at what Khadevis had done at UNLV, he was really getting some solid performances out of some women who I didn’t think had the talent,” Dennis said. “I didn’t think they had the same talent and depth that we have. I thought we have good, better talent, but we just weren’t getting the performances.”
Robinson said he is excited for his new opportunity.
“I’ve coached at almost every level … but I hadn’t coached at a big university,” Robinson said. “I like challenges and this will be a great challenge for me.”
Robinson’s accomplishments as a professional athlete include four U.S. indoor titles and four U.S. outdoor championships in the 800 meter.
A graduate of Texas Christian University, Robinson was also the 1998 NCAA champion in the 800 meter. He failed to qualify out of the opening heats of the 800 meter in both of his trips to the Olympics, but at 36 years old, he was the oldest competitor in the event in London.
Robinson explained how his success as a professional athlete on the track has helped him achieve success coaching.
“What it comes down to is really being able to relate to the athletes,” Robinson said. “So if they’re going through something, you can say, ‘Well, I know how you feel because I’ve gone through this also.'”
Dennis said that while Robinson’s athletic success increased his appeal as a candidate for the job, there were other factors as well.
“Well, I think that any time you’ve got somebody that’s coming in from the Olympics, sure they’re attractive,” Dennis said. “But at the same time, that wasn’t the sole reason. I would’ve still considered him as a strong candidate because I’m looking for somebody that showed results. I felt like he’s a good motivator, he’s very articulate …. and I felt like that’s what our kids needed.”
Dennis said there were “probably 80 applicants,” and about 30 of them were what she would consider “strong, qualified applicants.”
But Robinson stood out.
“When it came to interviewing and bringing people on campus, he just proved himself. He just moved to the top of the pack,” Dennis said.
An athletic spokesman stated that Robinson’s annual salary is $60,000.
An Olympic runner on the track and a Division I coach on the sidelines, Robinson has had to learn how to balance two challenging jobs. He described the balance as “very, very, very, very, very difficult.”
“If I was just running and not trying to be top 10 in the world, or making the Olympic team, it wouldn’t be as difficult because competing at the highest level is extremely difficult,” Robinson said. “On the other hand, some of the same things I tell my athletes, I can hear myself saying it to myself when I’m competing. So it gives me accountability, because when I tell some of the athletes I’m coaching to be A, B, C and D, then it makes me be accountable to doing A, B, C and D when I’m competing also.”
But Robinson said coaching is a way for him to fulfill what he believes to be his purpose in life.
“I think everything in life has a purpose,” Robinson said. “I found out my purpose is to inspire, motivate and help others. That’s my purpose in life. It just so happened that God blessed me as an athlete to be able to get my message out.”