Jacksonville Sports Day

Weekend Feature: Shane Cohen Finds Quick Success With UT Track

By Sydney Rhodes

On Friday, March 12 under the fluorescents of Pepin Stadium, Shane Cohen, a sophomore finance major, took the victory of the men’s 800m race. Not only did he win the race, but Cohen had set a new record at The University of Tampa in 1:49.19.

Cohen’s performance also served as a pre-qualification for the Men’s Track NCAA National Championships, which are anticipated to take place in June. On Tuesday, March 30, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) ranked Cohen’s 800m in the 5th seat on the NCAA Division II National Summary, as well as 1st in the South Regional. And as of Tuesday, April 6, Cohen remains in the 5th seat in the nation and 1st in the South Region.

Even though Cohen’s national and regional rankings look promising, he said his goal this season is to drop .03 seconds to meet the NCAA national automatic time of 1:48.80.

“My race strategy for the rest of this season is to just win every [800m] race,” said Cohen. “Hopefully if I can do that, the time will come with it. This is better to me than overthinking the time and planning ahead.”

Cohen’s running accomplishments are relatively new to him and the men’s track program. During the 2020 men’s track season, he walked onto the team and ran 800m times of 1:56.4 and 157.87 in two races at Pepin Stadium.

“In high school, basketball was my favored sport,” said Cohen. “But, I ran track for the four years and cross country my last two years.”

Cohen said he attributes much of his success to focusing more on running. During the cross country season, he had trained and raced with the men’s team. In February, Cohen served as a varsity team athlete as he placed 7th on the team at the SSC Pre-Conference Challenge and 5th at the SSC Conference championships, where in both races he contributed to the Spartans 3rd place team finishes.

“I have more confidence in my ability this season,” said Cohen. “I’m more fit after the cross country training in the Fall and past season and it’s played the biggest part in my success.”

Head coach of the men’s cross country and men’s track team, Dror Vaknin said Cohen’s preparatory work began with his willingness and believing that he can run longer and harder paces than he ever has.

“He made sure he did the mileage over the summer, he joined the cross country team and attempted to be a varsity runner,” said Vaknin. “This is very rare for a 400m guy to move up to the 800m and who has never raced a 5K distance before.”

At the South Florida Invitation on Friday, April 2, Cohen set yet another UT men’s track record in the 400m race as he crossed the line in 48.56. The time is ranked as 28th on the NCAA National Division II National Summary and 5th in the South Region.

“Shane has set the marker to try and break the existing 800m record, but in doing so early and by two seconds and leading the nation in the 800m, the goals got bigger,” said Vaknin. “I now have a goal for him to take down as many school records as possible, get to NCAAs, and challenge for the win, not just get there.”

Cohen said his biggest support system during this time has been his coach, Dror Vaknin.

“He actually makes me believe I can do it and that I can be successful, which is a great quality in a coach,” said Cohen. “It really gives you the mindset as an athlete that anything is possible and that the sky is the limit.”

“Shane has four great things going for him. First he is tough, second he believes in himself, third he is blessed with some good raw speed, and finally he never quits and is always a joy to be around,” said Vaknin. ” These qualities will lead him to possibly becoming an amazing middle distance runner…Personally I believe he could possibly reach Olympic trial standards and from there things can only go up.”

In hopes of the coming years, Cohen said his goal is to continue to qualify for the NCAA National Championship standard for the next three seasons.

Coming up, Cohen will run the 800m race at the Flames Invitational in Cleveland, Tennessee on Saturday, April 10. He also intends to race at the Tampa Tri-meet on Friday, April 23 and the UNF Invitational in Jacksonville, Florida from Thursday, April 29 to Friday, April 30.

“Seeing an athlete succeed is always an amazing feeling, but the performance by each athlete has a unique way of making you appreciate what they are accomplishing,” said Vaknin. “School records are nice and are an extra topping, but the shear work and dedication that lead to those types of performances makes me happy and feel good to be a part of their individual journey in a sport that I love so much.”

Cohen also said that joining the men’s track team was probably one of the best things he’s done. “Coming to Tampa and being in a close-nit of boys and doing everything with my team is a great atmosphere to be in,” said Cohen. “We all know how difficult this sport is, but yet we all get each other through it through confidence and picking each other up every day.”

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