South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Ex-Olympian uses experience to help his athletes succeed on track, in life

Ex-Olympian uses experience to help his athletes succeed on track, in life

SDSU Cross Country and Track & Field coach Rod DeHaven has experienced a challenging and rewarding running career and is showing students not to give up.  

The men’s and women’s cross-country team has been doing well this season with several top-10 placings throughout the season. The Jacks will be hosting the Summit League Cross Country Championship on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. and DeHaven is looking forward with confidence for the championship.   

DeHaven was born in Sacramento, California and at the age of 4, he moved to Huron with his mother. His running career began in middle school running in track meets. He started running long distance at the Jackrabbit 15 Road Race. In high school, he competed in cross country and track, earning a state championship in cross country his senior year and gaining the 1,600- and 3,200-meter state track titles.   

DeHaven attended South Dakota State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in computer science and ended his collegiate career as one of the most decorated runners in Jackrabbit history. In cross country he won:  

 •20 North Central Conference individual titles  

     •4 top- 10 at the NCAA Division II National      


     •16 All-American titles  

    •7 school records in middle length events (four currently stand)  

After college, DeHaven moved to Madison, Wisconsin to work as a business systems analyst. He still ran competitively and set a goal of running in the Olympics. It was seven years after graduation when DeHaven qualified to run in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but due to “little injuries that hurt at the time,” he dropped out.   

“The biggest thing is always timing,” DeHaven said. However, the 1996 Olympic Games were not his last chance to run on the biggest stage. DeHaven described himself as being in good shape and uninjured when he qualified for the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney, Australia. 

Traveling to Australia the marathon runners had to leave 20 days earlier because it was the last flight the Olympic committee was sending. While staying in the Olympic Village, DeHaven was not prepared for the living arrangements. “At 33, sleeping in a bunk bed on the upper level was bizarre,” DeHaven said. 

Staying in the village was a communal experience but due to the flu, there were not as many athletes present. After a week in the village, he went to New Zealand on advice from some other competitors, and when he got back to Sydney, he stayed with members of the shooting team in a construction trailer.  

DeHaven unfortunately experienced some trouble before the race. 

“Race day came and unfortunately I had some intestinal problems off at the wrong time, it was a struggle, but I got the race done,” he said.  

The 2000 Olympics didn’t go as planned, but it is notable that DeHaven was the only U.S. Olympian running in the race and he says he was lucky to have that experience. 

After the Olympics, coaching became a possibility for DeHaven and SDSU encouraged him to speak at and be at SDSU events.  The tipping point for DeHaven to become a coach was when Paul Danger encouraged him to think about coaching after he was inducted into the NCAA Division II Cross Country Hall of Fame. They believed it was important to have an alumni in the room. 

 In 2011, DeHaven was hired as the coach and since then has won conference Coach of the Year 13 times while leading both the men’s and women’s team to multiple Summit League titles in 12 of those seasons. 

As the director of track and field and cross country for over 17 years, he wants all his runners to succeed and “understand that they’re capable of doing a lot more than maybe they think in terms of being a student athlete,” and to leave confident. He strives for his runners to have academics and their family as their top priorities. 

Emma Gonzalez is a sophomore distance runner who competes in the 1,500-meter run at South Dakota State. She said DeHaven teaches his athletes to “lay the bricks of our futures even when things are difficult.” Having the season being the entire school year as a team, they develop a family-oriented and supporting atmosphere.  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *