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Cal Track & Field Adds Veteran Staff

Aug 9, 2013

BERKELEY – The Cal track & field staff is adding two veteran assistant coaches to its staff in Mohamad Saatara, who will oversee the throwing events, and Lissa Olson, who will be a volunteer coach for the Golden Bear jumpers.

“Both Mohamad and Lissa are proven Division I coaches with a comprehensive skill set that will complement our staff,” Cal director of track & field Tony Sandoval said. “They also have experience in other event areas that will allow us to cover a broad base of events and responsibilities.”

Saatara (sah-TAR-uh), who will also coach the pole vault for the Bears, comes to Berkeley after spending three seasons at Michigan where he supervised all field events and specialized in the throws. Under his direction, the Wolverines set five school records during the 2013 season alone in the indoor and outdoor shot put, the indoor weight throw, the hammer and the decathlon. In addition, two of his pupils earned All-American honors last year.

“Mohamad should not miss a beat in coaching the throws,” Sandoval said. “He's coached a number of outstanding collegiate, international and Olympic throwers in his career. He is a well-respected authority in the throws and an outstanding teacher and clinician.”

Prior to moving to Michigan, Saatara spent eight seasons at Northern Arizona, helping the Lumberjacks to 12 Big Sky Conference men’s and women’s team championships. He coach more than 20 Big Sky individual champions. Three of his athletes participated in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, including former Golden Bear shot putter Amin Nikfar, who was a volunteer assistant for NAU at the time.

Saatara previous served as interim head coach at his alma mater, Cal State Los Angeles. He is a former All-American at CSULA, setting the Iranian national record in the weight throw in 1997 with a toss of 65-9. He finished second in the hammer at the 1995 NCAA Division II Championships. Saatara is a USA Track & Field Level II certified coach.

“I am very proud and excited to join the Cal track & field program,” Saatara said. “It’s great to come back to California and be part of a talented staff of experienced and successful coaches. My objective is to help our vaulters and throwers contribute positively to our team’s overall success by reaching the highest levels of performance at the elite Pac-12 and NCAA levels.”

Olson was most recently an associate head coach at South Florida, where she specialized in the jumps and women’s sprints and relays since 2008. This past season, she helped Courtney Anderson to a runner-up finish in the women’s high jump at the NCAA Championships. Overall, Olson coached 10 Big East champions in the triple jump, long jump, and 100 and 200 meters. Under her tutelage, Bulls also set several school records during her tenure.

“Lissa has a long list of male and female jumpers and sprinters that she's recruited and developed throughout her career,” Sandoval said.

Olson’s previous stop was as assistant coach at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., from 2007-09. She served as head coach at Purdue from 2001-04 and as an assistant with the Boilermakers from 1999-2001, coaching a host of All-Americans, Big Ten champions and school-record holders in the jumps and sprints. Olson also was an associate head coach at Washington State from 1994-99, producing Pac-10 champions in the long jump and triple jump.

Olson has served in various capacities on the national level, including as jumps coach for the USA Under-23 Team in 2012, as head coach of the USA Pan American Junior Team in 2003, and as head coach of the Under-23 Team in 2002.

Olson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington State. She is married to Greg Olson, the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, and they have a pair of nine-year-old twins.