IRVINE, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton outdoor track and field head coach John Elders was voted the Big West Conference Men's Coach of the Year for the first time in his 29-year career, the league announced on Thursday, while senior sprinter Darion Zimmerman was voted the Big West Men's Track Athlete of the Year.
On Saturday, Elders – the longest tenured coach in the history of the Cal State Fullerton Athletics Department – led the Titan men to their first Big West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship at the Titan Track Complex as Fullerton compiled a program-record 133 points in the meet, upending defending four-time champion Long Beach State and edging out Cal Poly.
The Titans entered the final event with a slim one-point lead on Cal Poly – 125 to 124 – as the squads were seeded fifth and sixth with similar top times of 3:16:33 and 3:16:40 in the 4x400 meter relay, respectively. However, the Titan quartet of Marcel Espinoza, Luis Matos, Thaddeus Smith and Zimmerman sped to a season-best 3:11.42 to finish in second place with eight points, while Cal Poly finished fifth (3:14.55) with four points. The four-point advantage widened CSF's final margin of victory to five.
CSF's previous best overall team finish at the Big West Championship was third in 2006. In front of a FOX Sports Prime Ticket audience, Elders witnessed his troops dominate in the sprints, winning four races, including Darion Zimmerman in the 200 and 400, Diego Courbis in the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x100 relay team.
Zimmerman was the first Big West athlete to win both the 200 and 400 meters at the conference meet since Boise State's Corey Nelson in 1999. The Oxnarrd, Calif., native won the 200 in 21.13 seconds, joining current assistant coach Marques Barosso (2006) as the only two Titans to achieve gold in that event.
Zimmerman then repeated as 400-meter champion as his winning time of 46.86 ranks No. 2 in the Big West this year and also set a new Cal State Fullerton program record. It was a career-best effort that bettered his 2016 time of 47.46.
He also anchored the 4x100 meter relay and helped his team to a win in 40.18 seconds, giving the Titans gold in that event for the second straight year.
Zimmerman is the first Titan to win the Big West Men's Track Athlete of the Year Award dating back to its start in 2003. Brandon Campbell was named the Big West Men's Athlete of the Year in 2001, as Campbell and Zimmerman are the only two Titan men to ever capture yearly conference awards dating back to 1980.
In addition, Zimmerman was named the Big West Conference Men's Track Athlete of the Week twice in 2017.
The Titans will return to action at the NCAA West Preliminary at the University of Texas at Austin on May 25-27.
The qualifiers from the West Preliminary will advance to the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. on June 7-10.
2017 BIG WEST TRACK & FIELD AWARDS
MEN'S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Darion Zimmerman, Cal State Fullerton
WOMEN'S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Lexis Lambert, CSUN
MEN'S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Kemonie Briggs, Long Beach State
WOMEN'S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Riley Cooks, Long Beach State
MEN'S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Jason Smith, Long Beach State
WOMEN'S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Kierra Davis, UC Davis
MEN'S COACH OF THE YEAR
John Elders, Cal State Fullerton
WOMEN'S COACH OF THE YEAR
Avery Anderson, CSUN
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