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Monday, October 18, 2021

Head track and field coaches to retire in June

Each day after work, the Vochatzers went home, kicked back and were themselves.

It was a different story during the day, though, for UC Davis men’s and women’s track-and-field coaches Jon and Deanne Vochatzer.

“It was all about working, teaching classes and being the head track-and-field coaches,” Jon said. “We were five feet away from each other in our office, but in all the years of coaching, we never drove to work together. We left at different times. We never even parked next to each other.”

The Vochatzers will retire in June, but their dedication to UC Davis throughout the nearly 50 combined seasons of involvement will be remembered.

Jon began his Aggie career in 1979 and earned Coach of the Year honors seven times before the program joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

From that point on he guided the Aggies to 14 Big West Conference championships and coached 80 NCAA All-Americans, including nine national champions.

Additionally, he earned West Region Coach of the Year honors – six times for indoor and seven times outdoor.

Beyond the university, Jon assisted at the Olympic Festival in 1995 and the World University Games in 1997. In 1998, he was named to the United States coaching staff for the 1999 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Spain.

“I’ve had a great career as far as wins and losses and championships,” he said. “Every award I received was special. If I look at all the special moments, there are so many that I could highlight.”

But he said the respect he gained on a national and international scale was not the pinnacle of his track and field career.

“People always say it takes so long to get through all those years of work, but the years at UC Davis went by so fast,” Jon said. “It’s an ever-changing environment with new athletes coming in, going through, graduating and getting out into the real world. That’s what these years have been about.”

According to the Vochatzers, this is because the UC Davis athletic department “gets it.”

“I’ve had numerous opportunities to move on to different universities,” Jon said, “but I’ve chosen to stay at UC Davis. We’ve always had the family-type atmosphere in our program over the years, making sure the kids have a great experience, and that’s what I would like to leave behind with our new staff.”

His wife could not have agreed more.

“I want to win, absolutely, but I also understand what happens when those kids graduate and walk out the door,” Deanne said. “They have to be ready to take on Corporate America, which goes beyond the Xs and Os and the stopwatch.

“We’re just as concerned with them graduating in their chosen majors as we are with them running fast, jumping high and throwing far. I hope that never changes.”

In Deanne’s career at UC Davis, she helped guide the program into its NCAA Division I era, and build the foundation for the successful program.

In 1999, she won Region Coach of the Year honors in both indoor and outdoor, and also garnered the NCAA Division II National Women’s Coach of the Year honor.

In 2001, Deanne was named West Region Outdoor Coach of the Year. In 2003, she received her fifth of such honors for the CCAA.

Beyond track and field at the university level, she was named the head coach of the 1996 U.S. Team at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.

As the third woman to ever be offered the position, Deanne said she wanted to share the experience with her squad.

“The team was very excited,” Deanne said. “They went on the trip with me as far as sharing every aspect of [the Olympic Games]. It was wonderful to share that with the kids and the coaches on staff, and it was really a community experience.”

With years of experience under their belts, the Vochatzers’ colleagues in the athletic department would say that the husband and wife team has had a solid impact on the Aggies.

“The Vochatzers are synonymous with track and field at UC Davis and are among the most respected coaches in the country,” said Athletic Director Greg Warzecka. “They have had a positive impact on hundreds of student-athletes and coaches, and it’s that mentoring which might be their greatest contribution to UC Davis.”

Overall, the respectable team of Jon and Deanne Vochatzer has enjoyed its years in the program.

“We’re probably the only married couple in the country at the same school, the same sport and both head coaches.” Jon said. “It’s been a great opportunity to work together and it’s been a fun time all the way.”

GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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