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Cal names Robyne Johnson the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country

Johnson is the first woman to be the head of both the Cal men’s and women’s track and field and cross country program

Robyne Johnson was a former Cal assistant coach
Cal Athletics Twitter

Cal AD Jim Knowlton has filled another open spot in the Cal head coaching vacancy. Similar to the Cal Volleyball hiring of Sam Crosson last December, Knowlton did a national search but end up with a former Cal assistant that has thrived as the head coach/director of track and field at another University. Just as Sam Crosson, who saw success as a Cal assistant coach during the Final Four years, returned to Cal after a successful stint as the volleyball head coach at Cal Poly, Robyne Johnson is returning to Berkeley after being the successful Director of Track & Field/Cross Country at Boston University for the past 14 years. Coincidentally, recent-former Cal women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, hired by a different Cal Athletics administration years ago, also fit this description as a former Cal assistant who had first proved herself at a head coach job elsewhere (UC Santa Barbara) before returning to Berkeley.

Johnson is taking over for Tony Sandoval, who is retiring after 37 years in Berkeley. Specializing in horizontal jump and short sprints, Robyne Johnson was a Cal assistant coach from 1995 to 2003. The Oakland native coached six Pac-10 champions, six MPSF Champions, and 11 student-athletes to the NCAA Championship final site, including seven first team All-Americans.

From the official press release:

“We are thrilled that we are able to bring Robyne Johnson back to Cal as our Director of Track & Field/Cross Country,” said Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton. “Robyne emerged amongst a talented pool of candidates for the work she has done in developing the entire student-athlete while leading the Boston University program. The abilities she has demonstrated in coaching high-level athletes, hosting meets, recruiting nationally and her familiarity with Cal all made her the perfect candidate to lead our programs forward.”

Johnson will be the 14th coach to be charged with leading either the men’s or women’s track & field programs (ninth men’s coach/ninth women’s coach) at Cal. She is the fourth Golden Bear coach to be named Director of Track & Field/Cross Country for both programs and the first female to do so. Johnson becomes the seventh female to be named Director of Track & Field/Cross Country at a Power Five program, joining Beth Alford-Sullivan (Tennessee), Amy Deem (Miami (Fl.)), Karen Dennis (Ohio State), Maurica Powell (Washington), Connie Price-Smith (Ole Miss) and Caryl Smith Gilbert (USC).

Johnson brings elite coaching experience and years of working at rigorous academic institutions back to her hometown. Johnson grew up in Oakland and attended Berkeley High School, down the street from Cal’s campus.

”I’m ecstatic to be coming back to Cal,” Johnson said. “It’s like coming home for me. When I was at Berkeley High, we used Edwards Stadium every day. It was my home track. I am honored to have the opportunity to host meets at that track now and I am excited to work with the caliber of student-athlete at Cal. I am looking forward to getting back in touch with our alumni and I am really excited about moving the program onward and upward.”

Johnson is a Berkeley High school and University of Texas graduate; her collegiate career includes 5 All-American honors in the triple jump (presumably both in the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships). She also has had an extensive international coaching experience, including for Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she coached US athletes to 3 Golds, 3 Silvers, and 1 Bronze in the horizontal jump competitions.

Johnson inherits a Cal program that just won their first NCAA individual championship in 8 years when sophomore Camryn Rogers won the women’s hammer toss last weekend. Cal had steadily churn out great athletes, even several that became Olympians, but has not been a contender for the team NCAA title in either Track and Field nor Cross Country in decades.

Finally, let’s check out one more appreciation video for the outgoing Coach Sandoval. Rebecca Croft, who just finished her Cal career at the NCAA championships last weekend, Associate Head Coach Mike Gipson, and Calympian Alysia Montaño Johnson all talk about the special bonds that Coach Sandoval had formed with them over the years.

Welcome back to Cal, Robyne Johnson!