When word came that Harvard Hall of Famer and All-American Cliff Sheehan had died in Montana, the first person I thought to call was D. Elton Cochran-Fikes, who had been his coach at Harvard in the early- to mid-1980s before becoming a long-time administrator at Penn.
Admitting that he was still numb from the news, Cochran-Fikes said:
“My feelings about Cliff are hard to put into words, because our connection ran so very deep. I had a connection with Cliff that I never had with any other athlete that I coached. I know that part of that was my being the first Ivy sub-four-minute miler and him being the second, but he was such a committed athlete. He was very serious about his training and his academics, obviously, but he was very jovial and comical … He was a great man and it makes his passing all the more tragic.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Sheehan’s senior season at Westfield High has been long considered as one of the best by any runner in state history. As a senior at Harvard, he became the first New England collegian to break the four-minute barrier, running 3:59.2. He also finished second in the mile run at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a senior.
The Boston Globe reports that he “later became a cardiologist who helped pioneer the development of electrophysiology at the International Heart Institute of Montana.”