Chanman's Blog


2010 WCAL Finals

Posted in Coaching,Race/Meet Report,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on May 13, 2020
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I started this re-cap back in May 2010. I wrote about 90% of it and saved it on May 21, 2010 but never went back to it to finish it. Now that we are coming up on the 10 year anniversary of this historic event, I decided I would finish the story, knowing that the final details (starting with the 4X4’s on, will be a little hazy in my mind given the ten years that have passed.

WCAL Finals, 2010

I have been involved in the sport of track & field for twenty-five years and from the coaching side of things for twenty years. Friday, May 14, 2010 at the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) Finals may have been one of the most successful meets I have ever been associated with.

It was a close battle in the JV Girls division. Sacred Heart Cathedral was already assured of a share of the WCAL championship by virtue of our 6-0 dual meet record. But to win the championship outright we needed to beat Mitty at WCAL Finals. After WCAL Trials Day, thanks to first places by Kellie Redmond 1600 and 3200) and Juliette Alliaume (high jump), the Irish were leading Mitty 36-24.5 when the day started.  I made a dope sheet using the seed marks and everything suggested that the meet would be very close. In a championship meet like this, team scoring is: 10 points for first place, 8 points for second place, 6 points for third place, 4 points for fourth place, 2 points for fifth place, and 1 point for sixth place. Just one change in place can be a four point swing! 

Kellie Redmond (1st, 1600 & 3200) and Katherine Tse (3rd, 3200) picked up big points
Juliette Alliaume won the High Jump

In the Varsity divisions the Irish had six events with legitimate chances of qualifying for the Central Coast Section (CCS) Trials. It would take a top three finish for the boys or top two finish for the girls or achieving the CCS  at-large standard. In all six cases, I felt we had a chance but it would be close.

That was the backdrop heading into the meet. At most meets, some things go better than expected, some things worse, and in the end things pretty much even out. But not on this magical night where pretty much everything seemed to go the Irish way!

From the time we first arrived around 4:00 P.M. until we were celebrating on the field at the end of the meet after 9:00 P.M. it was non-stop action for me. I didn’t have time to eat anything, drink anything, sit down, or even go to the bathroom. Pretty much continuously for those five hours I had something that required my coaching attention…it was great!

It all got started with the 4:00 P.M. coaches’ meeting. There was a lot of tension in the air as we tried to resolve some conflicts over the seeding of some races. During the meeting I ate a muffin and the Bellarmine coach commented that I really wolfed down that muffin fast. I told him it was because I didn’t know when I would have time to eat again – and boy was I right!

The meet opened with the 4X100 meter relays. Our JV Girls were seeded second behind Mitty. We ran well and got second place as expected and I was happy to keep the score as projected. It wasn’t until the next day that it registered that their time of 51.37 was excellent, the third fastest time by any team (varsity or junior varsity) since I’ve been coach at SHC.

Next up was the Varsity Boys 4X100 relay. Five of the top seven teams in the CCS were in the race: us, Serra, St. Ignatius, Bellarmine, and St. Francis. The top three would qualify automatically for CCS. The fourth and fifth place teams had to run faster than the CCS at-large qualifying standard of 43.59 to make it to CCS. With our season best (and school record) of 43.36, we knew we had a chance. It was difficult to see much of the race from the middle of the field. At the finish line I noticed that four teams came by in pretty close succession but we weren’t one of them….but I kept the faith, yelling for Yra (sophomore Michael Munchua) to keep running hard and get the time. We were definitely fifth. Now we had to wait and see what the time was. I had us in 43.2 hand time so I knew we had a chance. Yra and I waited together staring at the scoreboard for what seemed like forever. St. Ignatius, 42.31; Serra, 42.51; Bellarmine, 42.52; St. Francis, 42.75. Then we waited….and finally: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 43.41! CCS, baby! Yra and I jumped up and down and then ran to find the other team members. The seniors, Marcus Del Bianco and Doug Parrish, now officially had a conflict between CCS and graduation. We had talked about it for the past couple weeks but now it was a reality. There were still more races to be run, so I told the boys we’d “sort all this out later, for now get ready for your next event.”

Marcus Del Bianco to Gary Moore, the 4X1 qualifies for CCS

In the JV Girls 100 Hurdles the Irish were seeded fourth and sixth with Mitty’s lone qualifier seeded ninth (last). If that held, the Irish could outscore Mitty 5-0. But Mitty had other plans. Mitty’s top hurdler, Clemence Couteau had one of the top times coming into WCAL Trials. But during the trials race she fell and by the time she got up and finished could only place a non-qualifying tenth (the top nine qualified for the final in this event because St. Francis’ track has nine lanes on the straightaway). Mitty strategically scratched their athlete who was seeded ninth, which allowed Couteau to move up into the race. Couteau took advantage of the second chance and raced to third place, while SHC’s Alliaume and Asia Satchell placed fifth and sixth. Mitty had scored some somewhat unexpected points. Instead of 5-0 for the Irish, the event went 6-3 for Mitty. Overall it was an eight point swing in Mitty’s favor. I felt we had fourteen points to play with so we were still okay but this definitely cut into our margin for error.

In the JV Girls 400 meter race, the Irish had three runners and Mitty had three runners. This was an opportunity for a lot of points for one of the schools. I figured the Mitty girl would win the race but as long as the Irish placed three runners ahead of the next Mitty girl, we would outscore Mitty for the event. It was important that we do this since we had lost those points in the 100 hurdles. Ebony McKeever (second), Kristina Hernandez (fourth) and Samantha Mairena (fifth) got the job done perfectly. Sam in particular did great. She was in the middle of the triple jump and had to come over for the 400. She got a slow start and a Mitty girl was ahead of her at the 200 meter mark. But in the last half lap of the race Sam did exactly what we needed her to do, surging past Mitty’s second runner to give us a 14-11 point advantage for this event.

In the Varsity Boys 400, Del Bianco ran a very nice race for sixth place. It would be his last individual race for the Irish and it was great to see him run a PR, 52.47. He only started running track last year as a junior but over the last year and a half he has worked very hard and done everything we could have asked to make himself into a top track runner. That time of 52.47 makes him the fourth fastest 400 meter open runner I have ever coached.

At this point in the meet I attempted to get some field event results. I checked at the triple jump pit to see what Mairena’s place was. They told me she jumped 30 feet something for fourth or fifth but I couldn’t get an official result. Then I went to the discus and shot put to see if I could get some throwing results but again nothing was available. It sounded like Emily Chug and Chelsea Bendebel placed fourth and fifth in the Varsity Girls discus and that Jennifer Java was fifth in the JV Girls discus but nothing was official.

I went back down towards the finish line to watch the end of the JV Girls 100 meter race. It was another race filled with SHC (three) and Mitty (four) runners. A lot of points were at stake. I figured Erica Hipp might win the race for us but Cecily Agu from Mitty was going to press her and Mitty had three other athletes who could score, while the Irish’s Allegra Bautista and Fue Tualaulelei were seeded in non-scoring positions, seventh and eighth. I wasn’t concerned about the times at all. All I wanted to see was the finishing places. As in most 100 meter races it was a blur at the finish line. I could see that Hipp won and Agu was second. The next thing I noticed was that Bautista was ahead of the other three Mitty girls. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “Allegra just stole us some points.” She sure did – fifth place ahead of Mitty in sixth, seventh, and eighth. Scoring for this event went 12-9 for the Irish, nine points better than the projection on the dope sheet. That made up for the points we lost in the 100 hurdles and I felt like we were back where we started, with a double digit cushion.

Erica Hipp wins the 100

While I didn’t care about times, just places in the JV Girls 100, in the Varsity Boys 100 I cared about the time. Gary Moore needed to run 11.17 or faster to hit the at-large standard for CCS. It wouldn’t matter what place he was if he got the time. With so many studs in the 100 meter race, I was more looking at his time. It was a blanket finish and Gary and I didn’t really say a word…we just looked up at the scoreboard. Coach Art Higgins and Coach Lloyd Wilson thought he might have been second or third but from my vantage point I thought he was fifth. We would know shortly. Marshall, Valley Christian, 10.94; Harvey, Serra, 10.94; Borel, St. Francis, 10.99; Kennedy, St. Ignatius, 10.99; and finally Moore, Sacred Heart Cathedral, 11.03. What a finish! Five guys within 0.09 seconds of each other. But more importantly, another CCS qualifying performance for SHC!

As I walked around the field, people had been telling me the St. Francis coach was looking for me. I was pretty sure it was because they were scratching a girl from the 800 and they wanted to know if our alternate wanted the spot. If it was JV, we for sure wanted it, as Tiffany Lam had come down and was warmed up and ready to go. Lam told me about twenty minutes earlier that she was still waiting to hear if there were any scratches. Unfortunately it was a varsity scratch and our alternate, Juliana Flynn, was not interested in racing the 800. Flynn was very sick. She missed school the day before and probably only came to school today because it was WCAL Finals. When we talked before the meet I could tell she felt horrible. She had four layers on (jacket, fleece, sweatshirt, and t-shirt) and was pretty pale. We agreed that she would not run the 1600 or the 800 even if there was a scratch. But she wanted to run the 3200 and felt that she could PR even under the circumstances. I told her that I trusted her and that I would let her run but if the race started going downhill she should just drop out, “You don’t have to prove anything. I’d rather you try and give up than push through and get mono,” I told her.

Before the JV Girls 800, I went over to Emily Hipp to give her some advice. A saying I’ve learned is “stick your nose in it” meaning get into position to contend in the middle of the race. I told Hipp to “stick her nose in the race.” I knew that if she was aggressive she could place pretty high. We needed big races from her and her teammates Hernandez and McKeever (both of whom were tired from the 400) to prevent a 1-2-3 Mitty sweep, which was entirely possible. On the dope sheet I had Mitty beating us 20-10 in this event. Anything better than that would be a plus. I saw in the first 100 meters that McKeever must have been hurt. She’s battled a hip injury all season and her form was way off as she went straight to last place. In the middle of the pack Hipp and Hernandez were battling. With 200 to go, they both made strong moves and although Mitty’s Amanda Guzikowski won the race, by getting second (Hipp) and third (Hernandez), and knocking Mitty’s Courtney Lisowski to fifth, the Irish scored big. It was 14-12 in favor of SHC, a twelve point swing from the dope sheet.

I was busy congratulating Hipp and Hernandez and checking on McKeever’s injury that I missed the starting gun for the Varsity Boys race. In the first 100 meters I felt good about Jarrett Moore’s chances. He was following the race plan we had discussed the day before, sitting back in the middle of the pack for the first 300 meters while Valley Christian’s Sean Davis took it out fast. Moore moved up over the in the middle of the race and passed St. Ignatius’ Mike Reher with 300 meters to go to move into second place. They started to build a gap on fourth place and I felt Moore’s chances for a top three finish and CCS were looking good. Reher passed Moore with 150 to go and would eventually overtake Davis for a narrow win. Moore had his usual tight form down the homestretch but he had enough heart to hold on to third place. A couple of Moore’s old teammates, Paul Rechsteiner and Daniel Koch, were there and they joined the mob that surrounded him at the finish line. We had to almost hold him up as he was pretty wobbly on his feet from sheer exhaustion. We knew he was third and thus had qualified for CCS so there was some celebrating. Since I didn’t start a watch I had no idea what the time was. We looked up at the scoreboard and it said, Reher, St. Ignatius, 1:56.02; Davis, Valley Christian, 1:56.03. Koch pointed to the scoreboard and told Moore, “Look at their times…and you weren’t that far behind them!” Then it flashed up there, Moore, Sacred Heart Cathedral, 1:57.94. Everyone around us starting screaming. Coach Andy Lee told me later that he could hear a roar from across the field at the triple jump pit. I didn’t even realize until we got on the bus to go home that this was a new school record.

Moore has been trying to break 2:00 for two years. He’s run 2:00.47, 2:01.16, 2:01.17 (three times), and 2:01.18. Even the Riordan coach commented to me the other day about how close he’s been without getting it yet. Back in cross country season Moore paid me for pizza in pennies. I told him I’d hold on to one of the pennies and give it back to him when he broke 2:00. I’ve been carrying that penny around with me since last November. When we saw the time on the scoreboard I immediately reached for my wallet and pulled out the lucky penny to give to him. At last!

Jarrett Moore – CCS qualifier, first sub-2, gets the lucky penny back

Next up was the F/S Boys 800. As Ernest Lardizabal went to the starting line, I realized that I had been so busy I wasn’t even checking on athletes before their races. I was just expecting them to warm-up on their own and be where they needed to be. Lardizabal is one of the athletes that sometimes needs some handholding from a coach or a teammate. Today he was the only F/S boys competing. Yet, he looked warmed-up and ready for his race. That made me feel proud inside. I was also pretty proud when he finished the race with a new PR of 2:10.

I was finally able to get the JV Girls triple jump scores. Mitty picked up thirteen points on us but it was expected so I didn’t stress about it. We had a 89-87.5 lead with three running events (300H, 200, and 4X4) and three field events (discus, long jump, shot put) to go. Next, I found Coach Andy Lee and told him that right after the 300H he needed to tell Juliette Alliaume that she’s running the 4X4 for the injured McKeever.

We were getting down close to the end of the meet. We had three entrants in the JV Girls 300 hurdles to Mitty’s one. I felt like this was a real chance to put the meet away. And we were one hurdle away from going 1-2 and pretty much slamming the door on Mitty. But although Alliaume won the race pretty easily, Satchell, who was running a strong second, clipped the last hurdle and fell. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to get up and finish the race. We ended up outscoring Mitty 11-2 in this event, giving us a 100-89.5 lead. After the race I noticed Alliaume was mad about her time. I told her that she could run her hurdle race frustrations out in the 4X4.

The next race on the track was the Varsity Boys 300 hurdles. Junior Clint Lewis was a surprise finalist in this event. He started doing this event three weeks ago against Riordan when we just sort of threw him in the race to see if he could score a point in the dual meet. He looked pretty good so we ended up working on the hurdles the last three weeks and his time dropped all the way down to 44.25. Along the same lines was junior Brandon Donaldson in the Varsity Boys triple jump. We started teaching him how to triple jump two days before the Riordan meet just to get some points in the dual meet. Again he looked pretty good so we kept at it. Three weeks later Donaldson was sixth at WCAL Finals and had a PR of 39-9.75, the fifth best mark since I’ve been coach. I couldn’t be happier for two guys who just come to practice and work hard.

Next up was the JV Girls 200. Hipp (Erica) and Agu would go against each other again. This time Agu got the win and Mitty picked up a key point with sixth place. It was 11-8 for Mitty and the score was now 108-100.5. We were getting down real close to the end and the score was awfully close.

Erica and her rival from Mitty, Cecily Agu

The Varsity Boys 200 was another chance for Moore (Gary) to qualify for CCS. I had a bad vantage point for the race but a great view of the finish. Moore was clearly second place. Another CCS qualifying performance. This guy was only third in the F/S Boys 200 as a sophomore. One year later he’s taking second in the Varsity race.

After the meet, Mookie and I could celebrate him qualifying for CCS in the 100, 200, 4X1, and 4X4

I was finally able to get an official JV Girls discus score. Java was fifth and Mitty was third. Now it was 110-106.5. We were clinging to a 3.5 point lead with three events to go, the 4X4, long jump, and shot put.

I went to the start line for the Varsity Girls 3200. I noticed that St. Francis’ Morgan Healy and Valley Christian’s Emily Blaha had scratched. There were now four main players – Morgan Lira (second at WCAL Finals in XC) from Valley Christian, Mary Kriege (third at WCAL Finals in XC) from Mitty, Angie Korpusik (sixth at WCAL Finals in XC) from Presentation, and our Sophia Cannata-Bowman (fourth at WCAL Finals in XC). The top two would qualify for CCS unless they ran under 11:36.68, which at the time I didn’t think would happen. Also in the race was Flynn, who was still hoping to PR despite being sick. I gave some last minute instructions to Cannata-Bowman, just reminding her that she had already proven she can stay with these girls in cross country. Right before the gun went off I made eye contact with Flynn and then almost whispered so only she would hear to “be smart and make a good decision.” She nodded and then seconds later the race began.

Lira shot out to the lead with Kriege, Korpusik, and Cannata-Bowman forming a chase pack. Kriege’s mom, Becky, who I know from a run many years ago, was cheering for her daughter on the outside of the track at the 200 meter mark. I was on the inside of the track at the 200 meter mark. Every time after they came by she would talk to me about the race. The chase pack hit the mile mark at 5:47 – right on 11:36 pace. The Cannata-Bowman started moving up. She ran a couple laps at 86 and they were now two to three seconds ahead of 11:36 pace. Kriege’s mom pointed out that Lira was starting to come back to the pack and with about 600 meters to go Cannata-Bowman looked awesome. She was smooth, running fast, and most importantly had a look in her eyes that told me she was going to win this race. She overtook Lira and they were enough ahead of pace that I figured all four of them would run under 11:36. I moved to a different spot on the track to cheer so Mrs. Kriege and I weren’t shouting over each other. I was jumping up and down telling Cannata-Bowman to accelerate on the last lap. Her last lap was 79.9 seconds! And as a freshman she became the Varsity Girls WCAL 3200 meter champion with a :29 PR at 11:27.52. She was on the ground at the finish and when some of our girls started to go towards her the official told them to stay off the track. But he allowed me to go over to check on Cannata-Bowman. I didn’t do a lot of “checking”, I just told her what a great race she had run! Then I was up and cheering on Flynn, who was running a real courageous race given the circumstances. She battled a couple of St. Ignatius runners and came home with a :19 PR at 12:56.

An exhausted Sophia Cannata-Bowman, WCAL Champion in the 3200 as a freshman

The Varsity Boys 3200 represented the last race for EJ de Lara, Micki Hynson, and Brian Furney. Combined they have run for me for a total of 23 seasons. Right before the race I remind them (as if they didn’t know!) that it’s their last time wearing the Irish uniform. De Lara runs his first six 6 laps in eight minutes, which was one of our goals. For his freshman year cross country time trial he ran three laps in eight minutes. In his final race he was twice as fast. After the race I took a picture with the three of them and thanked them for allowing me to coach them for the last four years.

Micki, Brian, EJ, and I commemorate the end of their era

Before the Varsity Boys 3200 started I asked Coach Rachel Giovannetti to try to go get some field event scores from the pressbox. She confirmed that what I had for the discus and triple jump were correct but she wasn’t able to find the long jump or shot put scores. We were pretty sure those events were done so I just needed to go figure out where the scoresheets were. But the 4X4’s were about to start. I figured we just needed to do as well as possible and between races I would try to find the scoresheets.

This is there my story ended in May 2010. Ten year later, using notes I wrote back then, the results sheet, and the scoresheet I was writing on that night back in 2010, I have completed the story.

The JV Girls 4X4 is first. I am hoping we beat Mitty as any point advantage at this point is good and since I don’t know what happened at shot put or long jump. We were seeded to do well in both events but it would take just one upset by a Mitty athlete to swing our 3.5 lead into a deficit.

As the race unfolds, I end up forgetting all about Mitty, because our girls are in a tight battle with St Francis for the win. Erica Hipp anchors us with a 61.7 split and we take second. Mitty is well back in third place. 8-6 for SHC. The score is now 118-112.5. We now lead by 5.5 points. I need to find the elusive shot put and long jump results.

I hear from someone that Steve Filios picked up the shot put and long jump results. I intercept Filios on his way to the press box and ask to see the results. He reads it to me. Shot Put. Tyhana Cooper (SHC)-second. Mitty-first. Long Jump. Mitty first and third. SHC-Allegra Bautista-second, Fue Tualauleilei-fourth, Gabby Vitug-fifth. I don’t even write down the marks. I don’t care.

I have all the results. The JV Girls meet is done. I just need to add up the scores. I run to the middle of the field where I can be alone and kneel down and start writing and adding. I’m breathing hard and my hands are shaking. The shot put was 8 points for us and 10 for Mitty. Long jump was 14-16. So we net lost four points in these two events. That means the 5.5 point lead after the 4X4 will shrink down to 1.5 but we’ll still win!

Checking the numbers with Coach Rachel Giovannetti

Rachel probably sees me writing hurriedly and knows what I am doing. She comes over and I tell her that it was close but we did it….but to not say anything yet. Coach Tony Tran finds me and says he’s been looking all over for me to give me results….that he has good news and bad news. I tell him that I got the results and that we’re good.

Varsity Boys 4X4 getting ready to close out the meet

By this time the last race is about to start, the Varsity Boys 4X4. Another chance to qualify athletes for CCS. We do a quick team cheer before the race and I send the boys out on to the track. They run terrific. 52 for Del Bianco, 52 for Jarrett Moore, 51 for Parrish, and Gary Moore anchors us with a 50.8 and we finish third in 3:27. We mob Gary at the finish line. Doug Parrish is so tired, I end up having to hold him up so he can stand.

The meet is now over and we’re just waiting for the official final score to be announced. I go double check my calculations in the press box. The official confirm it and tell me to take the JV Girls championship plaque. I hide it in my backpack as I walk back down to the field where the team is lingering. We are the only team left. Everyone else has left. Nathalie Hechinger asks if I know the result. I must smile in some way giving it away even though I shrug, because she smiles back at me and says, “yeah, you know,” and walks away. Finally the announcer gets on the PA (perhaps realizing SHC is waiting on the field specifically to hear the JV Girls score read) and starts reading the scores. At some point he says that Mitty is second, which means SHC is first. The team starts cheering. Everyone. Not just the JV Girls. Because this is an overall team success for all of us to relish and celebrate. We’re so busy cheering, I don’t think anyone hears how close the final score is. SHC over Mitty, 140-138.5. A WCAL Championship by 1.5 points.

The dope sheet I used at the meet to keep track of the scoring. 140-138.5!
2010 JV Girls WCAL Champions!
Celebrating an almost perfect 2010 WCAL Finals – one team champion, six CCS qualifiers

Being a Coach when COVID-19 Closed Bay Area Schools

Posted in Coaching,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on March 15, 2020
Tags: , ,

I was already tired and had a lot of things on my plate when this week started. We had two meets the previous weekend, I lost an hour due to daylight savings time, and my shoes were still wet after being out in the rain for the aforementioned two meets. But this was not going to be a normal week and I needed to power on and be ready.

I attacked each issue one at a time. Was there going to be practice on Monday? What will we do when the school closes for five days – are outdoor off-campus practices allowed? Is the meet on Wednesday at Washington still happening? What about the meet on Saturday at Lincoln? Where can we practice on Wednesday if there is no meet? Should I just cancel all practices on Thursday since there is no available facility or coaches available? Where can we move the pole vault practice scheduled for Riordan? Is there an alternate meet the team can go to on Saturday? What will we do now that the Archdiocese has closed all schools until March 25? What are other schools doing?

By Tuesday evening, the issues had narrowed to three things: 1. Would there be Wednesday practice? 2. Would there be Friday practice? 3. Would we go to the meet at Aragon HS on Saturday. Entries for the meet were due at midnight. I needed to make a decision if it was worth it to enter 80+ athletes. I was waiting for the school to send me directives about practice and meets during the closure.

Some time before going to sleep Tuesday night, I think I knew in my heart what was going to happen. I didn’t do the entries. We might have Wednesday practice so I could talk to the team in person. But we were going to shut everything down after that – no Friday practice, no Saturday meet, no other track & field activities until school re-opens. This was my plan and I was comfortable with this, regardless of what the school decided.

Wednesday morning I got word that starting on Thursday all SHC athletics activities (practices and competitions) would be suspended until at least March 25. I started working on the speech that I would deliver to the team and later post on Schoology. The theme would be “The What and the Why.” I wanted everyone to know both “What” was happening but also “Why.” I wanted the word choices in my speech, my body language, and the tone of my delivery to convey my total belief that this was the right thing to do. As a leader, I felt that if I showed confidence, the team would more easily accept the disappointment.

Come Thursday morning, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I removed practices from our Google calendar, canceled buses with our athletic director, canceled the hotel and bus for our planned overnight trip, and removed meets from our schedule. I had already given some thought to the suggested distance training plan that I would post, so it was pretty easy to type and post that.

After that flurry of activity, I suddenly had nothing to do. It felt strange. It’s the second week of March and my life should be full of making weekly calendars and meet sheets, updating best marks files, writing workouts, and checking in with kids – about their grades, their training, their performances so far in the season, and life in general. Instead I was sitting at home at my makeshift office on the dining room table.

In previous stressful situations I could do what I always do – bring my team together. Their love would inspire me to be the best coach I could be. I would talk to them, measure the room, see who was particularly stressed out. I would look people in directly in the eyes and offer re-assuring words and hugs. But this time, coming together as a group was exactly what the department of public health wanted us to NOT DO.

My usual day of being passionate about track & field, interacting with the kids, and being my typical goofy self were on an extended time out. That’s when I decided I would post on Schoology every day a “2 Things From Andy” post. The first item would be something track & field related to keep the sport that brings us together as a community on people’s minds. The second item would be some random mundane thing….whatever pops in my head, the goofier the better. It would help the kids feel like they were at practice listening to me talk. At the end, I would ask them a question and ask them to comment back so they would feel like they were talking to me….and so I could feel like I was with them as I read their responses. These posts were going to be as much for me as they are for them.

I take my role as a leader for the SHC Track & Field program very seriously. I feel it’s my responsibility to frame things for the kids to help them cope. I stumbled onto someone’s social media post and decided to borrow parts of it and add to it. It’s been an unprecedented week everywhere. I’ve had to think about things and plan for things that nothing could have prepared me for.

I closed this most crazy of weeks by sharing with the team this idea: It’s OK to be sad/angry/disappointed that these things that you really enjoy and that you were planning on happening are being taken away (canceled or postponed). Feeling those emotions doesn’t make you a selfish person. It is possible to be both a caring person, empathetic to the situation, AND upset as to how it is personally changing your life.

Stay safe, everyone. Be smart. Everyone do your part. And hopefully, before we know it, we’ll be back out there doing our thing.

From Jury Duty to Fresno

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on November 17, 2019
Tags: , ,
30 people strong - CCS runners, alternates, and managers

This all started on Monday June 10. It was a 6:00 pm practice because I was on jury duty. It was one of the hottest days of the year and even in San Francisco it was well over 90 degrees when we met at 6:00 that evening. That’s where the journey for the 2019 Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) Cross Country team began.

Along our journey we enjoyed countless memories together. We had a great summer of training. We started to see who was going to step up to fill the shoes of the six varsity boys from last year that were not going to be on the team this year. Late in the summer, we realized that there was a “fast kid” transferring in to SHC from Lowell. We took an epic trip to Oregon that included an 18 hour Amtrak train ride (each way) and sleeping 300 steps from the starting line in the barracks at Camp Rilea in Seaside. We started to more publically appreciate and thank the amazing work done by our managers. New faces got their first taste of varsity as CCS alternates, some of whom were probably not even thinking about this as a possibility at the start of the season. As a team, we ran amazingly fast races at WCAL.

All of a sudden it was CCS Week. The preview article implied that SHC was seeded third in both the Girls and Boys races. Third is solid. But third is not the place you want to finish, when only the top two teams qualify for State. For the Girls the battle would be with SI and Aptos. SI looked tough to beat. We didn’t know much about Aptos but we respected that they were good and would be a challenge to beat. For the Boys, all indications were that it would be a close race between us, St. Ignatius (SI), and Riordan, with Saratoga and maybe Aptos also in the mix.

Before the meet there was a lot of talk about how when you have high hopes there is potential for disappointment. We emphasized that this was OK….that it was part of sport….that it was a gift to have the opportunity to compete under these circumstances, stressful as they might be. Deep inside, though, what we all wanted was for both teams to qualify for State. The plan was to run the race and then after the race, we’d add up the scores and see if we made it.

The theme for the whole season had been, “Keep Calm and Throw Your Darts.” We wanted the kids to feel that they had permission to go for it….to keep throwing their darts and see what stuck. A side theme for CCS was the idea that, “Pain is Temporary. Pride is Forever.” We knew it was going to be tough in the last mile and that people would be hurting. The hope was the idea of having pride forever in their race, would help them overcome the temporary pain of racing the last mile at Crystal Springs.

Race morning, we reminded everyone that you can’t always take first place but you can always run to win. And we wanted our team to go for winning races at CCS. The Girls were told to just be themselves because, “no one is better at being you, than you.” The boys were told that I was proud of them for fighting so hard to be in position to make State. But that we were greedy and we wanted one more thing to be proud of so they should go out there and fight for State.

Those were the final instructions the teams were given. Then, before we knew it, the races were underway.  

The Girls got to the two mile mark and we found ourselves one point behind Aptos for second place with a mile to go. The Boys, despite our top two runners being off their game, were actually leading a tight battle against SI and Riordan but beginning to fall back with a mile to go.

It’s hard to put into words what transpired in those last miles. It was something out of a fairy tale. There was suspense, heroes and heroines, dramatic finishes, and a happy ending that left us all breathless.

We did so much between that first day in June and the moment each runner got to the mile to go mark. No one thing was “the” thing. It was a combination of many things. All the training and all the motivational talks/quotes/sayings were to have people ready to race this last mile at this exact moment. I think the fact that we teach the kids to love one another and to really care about making State, is huge. Every single one of them wants to contribute something to the cause. No one wants to let down the team. Everyone wants the season to go on for two more weeks – so we can take a dance class, so we can have another overnight trip, so we can dress up for dinner in Fresno, so we can have an emotional team meeting, and countless other traditions that are small and silly but mean the world to us.

The Girls pushed like I have never seen them push before. We kept screaming to them that every place was going to count and that “pride would be forever” if they could pass just one more runner. We finished fast and passed people. Sabina ran the fastest last mile of everyone in the race, except the race winner, and moved from eighth to fifth. Liz passed one runner. Kate, who the night before e-mailed me that she was feeling sick and wasn’t sure she should race or not, passed two. Tessa and Corona passed five and three runners. They both passed Aptos’ #4 runner. Gigi and Kennedy both fought to stay ahead of Aptos’ fifth runner. We improved our places by 14 in the last mile.

The Boys were actually leading the close battle with a mile to go but you could tell that SI and Riordan were closing on us. Aptos and Saratoga had runners up front, too, so it was possible they were in the mix. It was impossible to sort this out with the human eye. All we could do was yell to the guys that it was close and they needed to fight for every place and, of course, “to throw all their darts.” Andrew and Sedge had been out really fast and were now suffering in the heat. We tried to get them to fight to hold on to their current place. Dylan was chasing a pack that included Riordan runners. One of those Riordan guys had previously beat Dylan head to head five times (by :48, :44, :44, :30, and :31). But not on this day. At CCS, Dylan edged him out by one place and 0.29 seconds, good for a two point swing. Gavin and Briac were clearly exhausted. They would speed up and pass someone when we cheered them on but they would then fall back again. With 200 meters to go, I yelled to them one last time. “Run us to Fresno!” In the end, Gavin stayed in the same place he was a the two mile mark. Briac fell back but was the fastest fifth runner in the race. Mason was the fastest sixth runner, and he beat both SI and Riordan’s fifth runner.

After the Girls race, it just felt like we had beaten Aptos. The Girls had run so well in the last mile and I knew we made up a lot of points. Finally the score popped up on my phone. SI-50, SHC-67, Aptos-75. We made it by 8 points!

After the Boys race, it was just too close to call. We all found each other and gathered around my phone. The quick scores showed SI and us tying, with Riordan just 4 points back. I knew that this could change so I tried to keep everyone from celebrating too soon. Someone saw SI cheering and wondered what that meant. At some point I looked at a few of the boys and said, “No matter what this phone says in a few minutes, it won’t change that we raced great. Let’s try not to let what the phone says define this race.” A few seconds later, a tab appeared on my phone’s screen saying click here for final official results. The kids said I was shaking as I pressed on it. SI-87, SHC-88, Riordan-90. Yes, we missed winning by one point. But somehow we didn’t even care. What we cared about was that we were going to State….by just two points.

Qualifying both teams to State is our most beloved goal. We’ve been blessed to have it happen five times in the last ten years. It’s happened in a variety of different ways and circumstances. All of them have been memorable in their own way.

We can now add the 2019 CCS Meet and more specifically the last miles of both the Girls and Boys races to the list of legendary moments in SHC Cross Country history. The season that started with a 6:00 pm practice in June because of jury duty, will end Thanksgiving weekend in Fresno.

Varsity Girls - 3rd straight trip to State, 6 out of the last 10 years.
Varsity Boys - 7th time to State in the last 10 years.

Raining on your Parade

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on December 27, 2018
Tags: , ,

IMG_1299I’m sorry, boys of the 2018 SHC Cross Country team. I MAY have told you a little white lie before the Central Coast Section Championship race (CCS). But it was only because I was trying to prepare you to achieve our goal, to make it to the California State Cross Country Championship Meet (State).

With less than week until CCS, I felt we were getting a little over-confident. A little too focused on beating Greenfield to win CCS. We were bordering on losing focus on the primary goal, to place in the top two and qualify for State. I worried that this singular focus on beating Greenfield might cause us to commit the cardinal sin of how not to race on the Crystal Springs course – going out too hard and fading in the last mile. My mantra has always been, you don’t qualify for State in the first mile; you qualify for State in the last mile. I wanted to create a scenario in your minds, one that made you nervous enough to stick to our season-long plan.

That’s why I came up with my speech.

That’s why I rehearsed it in my head while running the day before delivering it to you.

That’s why I rehearsed it again in my office before practice, and again in the car driving to practice.

After I sent the girls on an adventure run, I gathered you boys around me.

IMG_1470“How we doing, guys? Feeling good? Feeling confident?” I began.

I heard a few responses. “Yeah, we’re good.” “We got this, coach.”

That was my cue to begin my Oscar-winning performance. Was every word I was about to utter the complete truth? No. Was this what you, my team, needed to hear at this moment? Yes.

“Well, I’m here…to rain…on your…parade.”

“Greenfield has been holding back all year. They’re just waiting to drop a bomb on us. And there’s a mystery team, because there’s always a mystery team, that will come out of nowhere and get out hard. They’ll be ahead of us at the two mile mark. They’re trying to take OUR spot to State.”

“The only way to prevent that is to race smart. I need you to go out and run the first mile like we’ve been practicing. Don’t change things. The race starts at the mile mark. You have to be ready to fight during the last mile, and when you get to the top of Cardiac hill, you will have less than five minutes to write the story where WE go to State.”

I paused and slowly looked around the circle. Everyone was quiet. I had everyone’s attention. In some ways, I knew at that moment, we’d be okay. After my speech you nailed a good track workout. Despite CCS being postponed three times due to the poor air quality and an extremely stressful ten day lead-up to the actual CCS race, when the race finally happened, you got it done.

Andy Chan 2.0

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on November 23, 2017
Tags: , ,

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For most of my twenty years as the head cross country coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the week before the Section Championships (CCS Week we call it), has been filled with very specific race day preparations. My style and belief has been that to prepare the runners to be ready for the moment, we should do specific training and have specific conversations about how the race will probably play out. There has been a lot of talk about qualifying for State Meet. Tactically, we have discussed where to try to position oneself early in the race, a first mile time goal, when to surge, and what teams to be looking for. We’ve gone so far as to pass around pictures of the teams we are competing with, so our team would know what color uniforms to be looking for.

I felt this year’s Boys team, given their experience, would be able to run a solid race regardless of my coaching tactics. I had no regrets about their training. I felt confident they would go out and give everything they had. The question was, was their best going to be good enough to place in the top two to qualify for State. As it turned out, Aptos and Greenfield were just too fast for us. We ended up a solid fourth but we were a far distance from for second. I was at peace with that.

The Girls team on the other hand, was new to the sport, inexperienced at championship level racing; a very un-confident group. My usual CCS Week talks, workouts, and activities were not going to work. They would only serve to make the Girls more nervous. I needed to give them emotional support and mental confidence, much more than physical training and race information.

I am proud of myself because during CCS Week I basically re-invented myself as a coach. Andy Chan 2.0, one of the girls called it.

Tactics were replaced by focusing only on what is controllable (effort and attitude) and letting go of the un-controllable things, like how the other teams raced.

The usual overall race plan was replaced with just focusing on the next 30 seconds to one minute of the course.

Talk about State Meet was replaced by reminders that we love them, no matter the outcome.

On Monday, we held hands before the hill workout and I had everyone think of someone that loves them unconditionally. On Tuesday, we all shared who we had thought about who loves us unconditionally. A game of duck, duck, goose followed. Then I passed out index cards and pens and told them to write down anything that was stressing them; I then asked them to write down the worst thing that could happen at the meet. After some sharing, I told them to rip up their card into as many pieces as they wanted and then throw the scraps into the garbage can before starting their warm-up.

CCS Week had become Kumbaya Week.

We held hands a lot. We formed a lot of circles when we talked. I sat down with them for meetings rather than standing over them.

I heard later that the kids were talking about it outside of practice, “What do you think he’s going to do today?” No we didn’t write our names in blood or sacrifice Lawrence at the team dinner. But I had them guessing now and more importantly had them thinking about what I would do next instead of worrying about the upcoming race.

At the team dinner, we played some crazy games. Everyone brought a stuffed animal and shared a story about their stuffed animal. The only time I said the word “State” that night was during the meeting when I said, “Getting to State isn’t that big a deal. It’s getting to spend an extra two weeks with the team that’s special.”

I went to the school’s Academic Resource Specialist (Cally Salzman) for advice. I figured she works with students who get nervous and struggle in class. I hoped she could give me a tip or two to help at the meet. She suggested giving them some time to sit alone, breathe deeply, and listen to music.

Normally we just send the team out to warm-up on their own with a basic idea of what time they should be ready to go to the starting line. Not Andy Chan 2.0. We gave them a very structured warm-up schedule. There was no time to get nervous because they were constantly checking the schedule to stay on task. Everything was plotted out. Usually I don’t let kids use their phones once we get to the meet. But this time I made an exception so we could use Cally’s suggestion. We gave five minutes of “Alone Time” for anyone who thought it would help them to sit, breathe deeply and listen to music.

At the starting line during the team huddle, I reminded them to focus on effort and attitude only. They should only concern themselves with the next thirty seconds to one minute of the course. If their mind wandered at all, they should think about how much everyone loves them.

During the race, I only said things related to effort and attitude and I gave them short term goals, things they would focus on for only a few seconds to a minute. This wasn’t easy for me, as I am wired to shout out their position in the race or who we needed to catch in order to qualify for State. In fact, I had to rehearse this strategy the night before the race.

Halfway through the race, I could tell that Aptos was way out in front and was going to win. The top three girls teams would qualify for State and mid-race it was clearly North Monterey Country (NMC) and Sobrato in second and third. I heard the announcer say we were in fourth and that our San Francisco rival, St Ignatius (SI) was in fifth.

In the last mile, I noticed SI was making a strong move up and that NMC and Sobrato were falling back. But still, every time I cheered for our Girls, all I would say was “give me a good effort,” “focus on attitude,” and “pass one person between here and the turn.” I never once shouted to them about the other teams’ position.

At the finish, I was super pleased. We had run great races all around. The Girls looked pleased but also nervous. They were wondering if we had qualified for State. I remember running up to them and telling them that they ran great, that that was the race we wanted and that we didn’t need a results sheet to tell us it was a good day. As we walked to the start line for the Boys race, I wouldn’t let myself think about whether we qualified or not. I was happy with the race. I wanted to follow my own advice and not care (too much) about the result.

Then we heard an unofficial announcement that we were third. That made things difficult. It would be too painful to start thinking we made it, only to find out that we hadn’t when the official results came out. I didn’t want to go down that road and I didn’t want the Girls to either. So I kept telling them to wait…to not celebrate yet. I was having an internal fight in my head, on one side I wanted to consider what it would be like if we qualified for State. On the other side, I kept saying to myself, “don’t go there.”

IMG_9470Finally, on my fiftieth refresh of the results web page in the twenty minutes since the race had ended, I saw the official results. Only fifteen points separated second place from fifth place. We were a State Meet qualifying third place, only six points ahead of Sobrato and only eight points ahead of NMC!

Wow! A lot of things went into this achievement. Mostly the girls who ran. But also the support from the alternates, the other coaches and the rest of the team. And if the Andy Chan 2.0 coaching style contributed just a little, I’m proud of that, too.

The Brie Felnagle

Posted in Coaching,Training Thoughts by Andy Chan on August 7, 2015
Tags: , , ,

On the left: Brie Felnagle, the athlete, on the track at the 2015 USA Champs. Photo courtesy of Paul Merca. On the right: Brie Felnagle, the workout, on Strava.

On the left: Brie Felnagle, the athlete, on the track at the 2015 USA Champs. Photo courtesy of Paul Merca.
On the right: Brie Felnagle, the workout, on Strava.

Brie Felnagle, the athlete, is a professional runner, currently coached by Danny Mackey. At the 2015 USA Championships she placed ninth in the 5000 meters. Her 1500 PR is 4:05.64 and her 5000 PR is 15:14.33. She was an outstanding high school athlete at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma. She went to North Carolina for college, graduating in 2010. Her college highlight was winning the 2007 NCAA Championship in the 1500 meters. She struggled for a few years right after college, but seems to have found a good training set-up. She lives in the Seattle area, is coached by Danny Mackey, and trains with the Brooks Beasts Track Club (Beasts TC). Felnagle is sponsored by Adidas so she is not an official Brooks Beast TC team member.

Felnagle ran at the 2011 and 2013 Club Cross Country Championships, which means a few Pamakids have had the honor of lining up and running against her. In 2011, Felnagle won the Open Women’s race. In 2013, she came in seventh and helped the Brooks TC win the team title. This title was not without controversy because Felnagle’s aforementioned Adidas sponsorship required her to wear an Adidas uniform. That meant her uniform was not 100% matching with her Brooks TC teammates.

Brie Felnagle, the workout, is a challenging track interval workout that I highly recommend. Felnagle shared the workout in a Running Times article in September 2013. Warning, it’s a long workout – six miles of running (24.5 laps total). You will run a variety of paces (all of which are fast). You will be challenged both mentally and physically. Delayed onset muscle soreness will kick in around 24-48 hours after the workout. But that soreness will eventually clear and you will feel good about getting the workout in, and hopefully, your race fitness will be much improved. I recommend this workout for people running at least 30-40 miles/week and training for either a 10K or cross country race of 8K to 12K. I like to do the workout at the tail end of my base training phase, just before the racing season. I use it as a benchmark of my fitness.

The full workout is:

  • 3K – 5 minutes rest
  • 2K – 5 minutes rest
  • 2 sets of 6X400 with 5 minutes between sets and 1:00-1:15 between 400s.

The 2K is run at my 5K pace. I aim to be 10-12 seconds faster at 1600 meters than I was for the 3K.The 3K is run a little faster than tempo speed. I’ve been running it at approximately my 10K pace.

The first set of 6 X 400 are run four seconds faster than the 400 pace of the 2K. My goal is to only take 1:00 rest between these 400s. This is probably run at my two mile race pace.

The second set of 6X400 are run four seconds faster than the first set of 400s. Due to the increase in intensity, I have found that I need to take 1:15 rest between these 400s. This probably ends up being my one mile race pace.

Here are some example workout times in table format:

The next time you are at a big meet or watching one on the internet, check and see if Brie Felnagle is in the 1500 or 5000 and maybe give her a little cheer. It’s the least we can do to thank her for sharing this challenging but highly useful workout.

Breaking Barriers

Breaking through barriers, both literally and figuratively, is an important part of life. My friend Mark Hermano teaches a lesson in his physics class where students literally break through a wood board with their hand. The lesson includes the physics of actually breaking a board with your hand and also the life lesson of how sometimes you can do more than you think and the importance of breaking through figurative barriers. The keys to this are focusing, planning, putting energy into it, following through, and believing. Click on this hyperlink for a video of Mark’s full explanation of the exercise.

For runners, breaking barriers usually involve beating a certain time. Usually, but not always, it’s a time with a zero in it. For example, 5:00 in the mile or 1:30:00 in the half marathon.

For Shannon Rowbury, breaking through the four minute barrier in the 1500 has been a goal of hers since she ran 4:00.33 at the Paris meet in 2008. From 2010 until this past weekend, Shannon had PR’s in the 800, 1500, and 5000 that are remarkably close to time barriers – 2:00.47, 4:00.33, and 15:00.51. That’s a total of 1.34 seconds away from three major barriers — sub-2 in the 800, sub-4 in the 1500, and sub-15 in the 5000.

In the spring of 2012, Mark did the wood breaking exercise with me, Malinda, Shannon, and Pablo (Shannon’s fiancé). It was an opportunity to get together for dinner and have an activity that also related to the mental side of running. Part of Mark’s exercise is that you write a barrier that you want to break through on the piece of wood. Shannon wrote “:00” on her piece of wood, indicating her desire to break through the 2:00, 4:00, and 15:00 barriers. It took some time, some good coaching, and some perseverance but by the end of the evening, Shannon broke through her piece of wood.

Shannon breaking through the :00 wood board in 2012.

Shannon breaking through the :00 wood board in 2012.

Breaking Barriers_Shannon board2

BOOM!

Happily displaying our boards after breaking through. My barrier was 35:15 (for 10K) and I am happy to say I ran 35:01 a month later.

Happily displaying our boards after breaking through. My barrier was 35:15 (for 10K) and I am happy to say I ran 35:01 a month later.

Two years after breaking through that board, Shannon took care of breaking the 4:00 barrier in the 1500 at the 2014 Paris meet. Malinda and I watched the race on our computer and Shannon seemed to be perfectly positioned and paced it very well for a shot at breaking four minutes. There were a couple bumps with other runners but Shannon stayed on her feet and the chase was still on. As Shannon raced down the final straightaway, I counted the time off in my head – 3:56, 3:57, 3:58, 3:59, 4:00. The clock stopped for the winner at 3:57 so we would have to wait for the results to flash up on the screen. I knew it was either 3:59 or a real low 4:00. But which was it? It seemed to take forever as the broadcast shifted to the high jump to cover a Blanka Vlasic attempt. Then finally the results popped on the screen. 3:59.49! The barrier was broken.  Shannon later told me that, “good things come to those who wait” and they sure did on this day.

Shannon breaking 4:00 for the 1500 got me thinking about her first sub-5 in the 1600 when she was in high school. I must admit I had to dig around to find it. It was March 16, 2001 at the Piedmont Distance Carnival. Shannon ran a negative split race: 78, 77 (2:35), 74 (3:49), 67 (4:56). Really pretty amazing that she went 2:35 for her first 800 and 2:21 for her final 800 including a blistering 67 for her last lap. All this as a high school junior. She needed every second that last lap as she narrowly beat her future Duke teammate Clara Horowitz, 4:56.7 to 4:58.7.

Breaking Barriers_Shannon first sub-5

Shannon breaking the 5:00 barrier in the 1600 for the first time in 2001. That’s me in the background on the far right of the picture, running to my next spot to cheer/coach.

Looking at the results from the above hyperlink, the fifth place finisher in the Boys 1600 was a senior from De La Salle who dabbled in both track & field and soccer. I believe he had a high school PR of 4:15 but chose to focus on soccer after high school. It’s worked out for him pretty well. You may know the name. He plays for the San Jose Earthquakes and played in the World Cup this summer. He’s the one who had the ball on his foot just yards from the goal late in regulation time in the Belgium game and just couldn’t quite convert. He is Chris Wondolowski.

Advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals. Now that would have been a barrier breaker for the US Men’s team! Be patient, USA, good things come to those who wait.

A Championship Day

A Championship Day

A Championship Day

Since getting into running and coaching, I have been less fanatical about the typical professional sports (and teams) that dominated my attention growing up. More LetsRun. Less Sports Illustrated. But the Seattle Seahawks recent run to the Super Bowl re-kindled the sports fan buried deep inside me.

A lifelong Seahawks fan!

A lifelong Seahawks fan!

I became a Seahawk fan back in 1978. I must have liked the logo on their helmet. There was also something special about the lefthanded quarterback, Jim Zorn, and his favorite receiver, Steve Largent. During that 1978 season the Seahawks beat the local Oakland Raiders two times to finish with a record of 9-7. It was not spectacular, nor was it enough to make the playoffs. But for an expansion team in just their third year of existence, it was a solid season. They finished with more wins than losses for the first time and were the first team to beat the Raiders twice in a season in 13 years. The Seahawks of this era were known for their trick plays such as fake field goals and fake punts, onside kicks and scrambles by their quarterback. I was hooked – a fan for life! Little did I know that cheering for the Seahawks would lead to many sad days. When it wasn’t football season and the Seahawks weren’t disappointing me, I had the Houston Astros to step in and break my heart instead. Let’s just say, there haven’t been a lot of championship days for me and my sports teams.

In 2013 on Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick in bed with pneumonia. For the first time in many many years, I missed the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. It was heartbreaking to stay home on what most of us in Pamakids consider the biggest day of the year. In the afternoon, I watched Super Bowl XLVII from my bed.

This year was a totally different experience. I have been inspired by my Pamakid teammates and I’ve been training consistently to build back the base that I lost during my two bouts with pneumonia last year. I’ve been giddy with excitement for the Seahawks and Super Bowl XLVIII, reading every article and story that I can get my hands on and watching video after video in preparation for the big game. “I’ve been waiting for this game since 1978,” I told my wife Malinda, every night when she implored that I turn off the device and go to sleep.

I see a little bit of Pete Carroll in my coaching style. I like my teams to have fun but I also hold them to a high level of expectations. If you are on my team, you are expected to commit and work hard. Watching Carroll run up and down the sidelines, cheering on his team and constantly handing out pats on the backside and high fives reminds me of what I do at meets. His post-game speeches have given me new material for my post-meet huddles. And his mantras!? “Tell the Truth Monday.” “Competition Wednesday.” “Turnover Thursday.” “Each game is a championship opportunity.” I love that cheesy stuff!

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s leadership and dedication has been truly inspiring. He went to last year’s Super Bowl just to get a feel for what the experience would be like because he planned to make it to the Super Bowl this year. I read story after story about Wilson’s upbringing, how his grandfather instilled a work ethic in his father and how his father passed it down to him. “Why not us?” Wilson told his Seahawk teammates back in training camp, as he planted the seed that the Seahawks’ goal should be to win the Super Bowl.

On the morning of February 2, 2014, I awoke to the sound of raindrops. As we are in the midst of a drought, it was welcome news for us Californians. But not exactly great news for the runners at the 31st annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K. Before the race I tried to keep everyone positive and upbeat. In our team huddle before the race I reminded the team that while every day was a great day to be a Pamakid, that today was an especially great day to be a Pamakid. Then I looked people in the eyes and told them stick to their race plan despite the rain. “Be patient early. The race still starts at the Great Highway and I’ll be there to remind you of that,” I yelled, “Go Green on three!” I felt like I was leading the Seahawks huddle before they took the field for Super Bowl XLVIII.

The race unfolded beautifully. At the seven mile mark on the Great Highway, I saw most every Pamakid. I then ran over to the mile to go mark and waited for the return of the runners. In particular, I remember seeing Zack Hedling approach. I checked my watch. It read 1 hour, 14 minutes. If he wanted to achieve his goal of running a sub-1:20, he had six minutes to get in. Yelling like Pete Carroll, or like I do when coaching the Sacred Heart Cathedral team, I got in Zack’s face, “You can break 1:20 but you need to go now! Six minutes to glory!”

It was a glorious day for the Pamakids. In 2009, Zack was out top finisher in 99th place with a time of 1:24. In 2008, Adam Lucas was our top finisher in 59th place with a time of 1:22. This year, we had 5 runners in the top 59, all with times of 1:20 or faster. We’ve come a long way. Steve Lloyd was our first top 10 finisher in a long time, running an unbelievable 1:12:13.

Zack and Denis draft off another runner into the headwind on the Great Highway on their way to PR's.

Zack and Denis draft off another runner into the headwind on the Great Highway on their way to PR’s.

Reading on Facebook (isn’t that the now official way of finding out if someone is pleased with their race or not) I read several excited status updates. Yes, it was a good day for the Pamakids:

–          As mentioned already, Steve in 7th place (1:12) and Zack, sub-1:20.

–          Matt H with a one minute PR of 1:18.

–          Denis with yet another small PR as he inches closer and closer to 1:20 flat.

–          Fiona pleased with her 1:40.

–          Danielle H very pleased to run 8 minutes faster than last year with a 1:40.

–          Marlyss and Catrine both pleased to be close to their PR’s despite the wind and rain.

–          Akemi, shooting for a 1:53 and running 1:49.

–          Jodi, not only breaking 2 hours, but also kicking in to break 1:59.

–          Jim, running 6 minutes faster than in 2011.

–          Karen, with a six minute course PR and knocking on the door of the 2 hour mark.

–          Keith, Jeannie, and Theo all placing first in their respective age divisions.

–          Marcia with a big last mile in the 5K.

As I settled in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII I was already excited from all the great race performances I had just witnessed. It turns out, there was one more grand performance left on this memorable day.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer David Nemhauser posted a blog the morning before the game. In the final paragraph, he eloquently expressed what Seahawk fans were feeling and showed his confidence that the Seahawks would win the championship:

The climb to get to this point has been long and treacherous. Fans deserve to savor every moment. Our shared history is marked by a collection of near-misses and nearly hopeless mediocrity. In a world permeated by equivocation and murkiness, we gather today to celebrate the opportunity for crystal clarity. One team will win. One franchise will walk away with an accomplishment that can never be undone. Seahawks fans know which team that will be. The rest of the world finds out tonight.

The Seahawks journey, much like the half marathoners’, was long and treacherous. I am trying to savor every moment from the race and the Super Bowl. February 2, 2014 was a Championship Day like no other!

The 6th Runner

Posted in Coaching,Pamakid Runners by Andy Chan on September 4, 2013
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In cross country, a team’s score is based on the finishing places of its first five runners. Runners number six and seven are called displacers – they have the opportunity to displace other teams’ runners by placing ahead of other teams’ scorers (i.e. their top five runners). The sixth runner also has important value in the event of a tie between teams, as in most competitions, the tie is broken by which team has the higher placing sixth runner.

If all of this seems pretty hypothetical and “not likely” to happen, guess again. More times than you might imagine, the sixth runner can make a big difference in the final results.

Last year at the Pacific Association Cross Country Race at the Presidio, the Pamakids and West Valley Joggers and Striders (WVJ&S) were in a tight battle in the masters race.

The results went like this:

 

Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

1. Jose Pina, WVJ&S

2. Anthony McGrath, Pamakids

3. Jorn Jensen, WVJ&S

4. Other team

5. Andrew Chan, Pamakids

6. Adam Lucas, Pamakids

7. Adam Prince, WVJ&S

8. Robert Palos, WVJ&S

9 & 10. Other team

11. Jerry Flanagan, Pamakids

12. Other team

13. Richard Martinez, Pamakids

14. Other team

15. Denis Glenn, Pamakids

16-17. Other team

18. Andy Williams, WVJ&S

19-21. Other team

22. Tomas Palermo, Pamakids

23. Other team

24. Tom Fahey, WVJ&S

25. Jimmy Forbis, WVJ&S

Pamakids    2  5  6  11  13  (15)  (22)  = 37

WVJ&S        1  3  7   8   18  (24)  (25) = 37

The Pamakids took 1st place in this race because Denis, as the Pamakid sixth runner, displaced the WVJ&S fifth runner, Williams, a crucial one point. Without Denis, Williams places one spot higher (17th) and WVJ&S would beat Pamakids 36-37. Instead, Denis displaces Williams one place, thus creating a 37-37 tie that is broken by the higher placing sixth runner. Denis won the tie-breaker placing 15th as compared to the WVJ&S sixth runner, who placed 24th.

If you think that was an isolated incident, you would be mistaken. The sixth runner was the hero again for the Pamakids last weekend at the Empire Open race in Santa Rosa. This time it was a tight battle for third place (and third place in the Open Men’s division does get prize money) between Pamakids and the Wolfpack.

The results went like this:

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

1-10. Other team

11. Simon Novich, Pamakids

12. Alex Esparza, Wolfpack

13-14. Other team

15. Casey Strange, Wolfpack

16. Other team

17. Joe Tomkins, Wolfpack

18. Matt Herzog, Pamakids

19-21. Other team

22. Zachary Hedling, Pamakids

23. Ryan Pletzke, Pamakids

24. Other team

25. Benjamin Willis, Pamakids

26. Eric Huynh, Wolfpack

27. Other team

28. Merick Dang, Pamakids

29. Bjorn Samson, Wolfpack

Pamakids    11  18  22  23  25  (28) = 99

Wolfpack    12  15  17  26  29          = 99

Merick, like Denis the year before, really was the hero for the Pamakids. By placing 28th, he displaced Samson to 29th place. Without Merick, Samson is 28th and the Wolfpack beat the Pamakids, 98-99. But thanks to Merick beating Samson, the Wolfpack score was pushed up to 99, creating a tie, and Merick broke the tie and gave Pamakids third place by being the faster sixth runner (Wolfpack didn’t have a sixth runner).

I don’t have the exact statistics, but I am quite certain I have been on the winning side of more sixth runner tie breaker situations than the losing side. At one memorable Sacred Heart Cathedral league finals meet in 2005, both our JV Girls and Sophomore Boys beat Mitty on the sixth runner tie-breaker (and the Freshmen Boys beat Mitty by one point).

I like to think that one reason the teams that I am associated with come out ahead in these close scenarios, is that I preach the importance of always running like every place will matter, whether you are in the front, the middle, or the back of the pack. Racing with that mentality is often worth one or two points for the team and more often than you might think, those points make a difference in the final team standings.

Keep these stories in mind when you need motivation to keep pushing in the last half mile of a race. You never know when you might score a valuable point or two for your team and be the hero!

DyeStat is Back

Posted in Coaching by Andy Chan on February 28, 2013
Tags: , , , ,

DyeStat logo

 

In November 2012 there was a sad announcement that after fifteen years, John Dye, founder of the website DyeStat.com, announced that the website would no longer be updated. However, a few weeks later RunnerSpace stepped up and bought DyeStat. After three months of prep work, the new DyeStat website was re-launched on Thursday, February 28, 2013.

DyeStat.com, when overseen by John Dye, was a major source of information, statistics, and pictures of high school track and field, and cross country. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s DyeStat.com averaged two million views per month. When I first started coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) in 1998, there was very little information about high school running on the internet. I remember checking Dan Cruz’s cross country website which pretty much consisted of just a weekly Central Coast Section ranking. I was thrilled to see his entry one day that had my SHC girls team were ranked number four. As I expanded my interest to include more than just my local section, to encompass the whole state of California, I found California Prep Track & Field. Then, as Shannon Rowbury got faster and faster, I expanded my interest to the national level and that led me to DyeStat.com.

Dye started with a weekly newsletter in 1996 that covered high school track & field in western Maryland. Dye’s interest stemmed from the participation of his children Derek (high jump) and Natalie (pole vault). Dye started collecting results so that he could create rankings and see where his kids ranked not just against the competition in Maryland but across the whole country. In 1997 DyeStat.com became the first national high school track & field website, featuring top 100 rankings in all events for the whole country.

Photo by Donna Dye. June 2002. Shannon had just won her final race in the SHC Irish uniform, the 1600 meters at the State Meet.

Photo by Donna Dye. June 2002. Shannon had just won her final race in the SHC Irish uniform, the 1600 meters at the State Meet.

Dye also went to big meets where he posted results and race re-caps, while his wife Donna took pictures not of the athletes in action but the sidelines – the spectators, coaches, and families. Donna’s section of the website, Donna on the Side, was a favorite place to see pictures and one of my favorite photos is one that Donna took of Shannon Rowbury and me after Shannon’s last high school race – it was both a joyous (Shannon had just won the state championship) and a sad (this was the end of our time together at SHC) occasion. One picture down and to the right of Shannon and me is 2012 800 meter Olympian Duane Solomon and his high school coach.

Around 2004, DyeStat.com added regional coverage and the California Prep Track & Field website that I visited for California high school information became part of the DyeStat family, as DyeStatCal.com. This led to an even larger internet presence, and interest in DyeStatCal surged to its peak during the years 2004-2008. The message boards were filled with discussions about top runners and teams. I excitedly checked DyeStatCal daily for the latest rankings and results. On occasion the SHC team was featured on the front page of DyeStatCal after strong performances.

DyeStat created a new level of interest in cross country and track & field among the participants themselves, especially distance runners. I truly believe that the recent resurgence in American distance running can be partially traced to DyeStat. In 2000, three years after DyeStat became a website, three of the greatest prep runners in history were seniors. Before the internet and DyeStat, each of these three may have run fast against their local competition and been satisfied at that. But thanks to DyeStat, the kid in Virgina who would break four minutes in the mile knew that the kid in Michigan was throwing down some fast times in the two mile. And both of them knew that the kid who lived at altitude in California was right on their heels. When these three future American distance stars faced off at the 2000 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships they already knew all about one another. Perhaps they were motivated by the others’ success, which drove each of them to be better. The end result: Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenheim, and Ryan Hall led American distance running into a new era – an era that has seen Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Galen Rupp medal in the 10,000 meters and Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Barringer, Matthew Centrowitz, and Leo Manzano medal in 1500 meters at the Olympics and World Championships between 2007-2012.

Other than Shannon and Leo, I don’t personally know any of the other successful American runners. But I do feel like know them. These great runners grew up before my eyes, starting when I first read about them on DyeStat. Thank you John Dye, for promoting the sport. You played a big role in the resurgence in American distance running and it was just plain fun to go to your website and read stories.

2013 is a different year and different era than 1997. Websites are no longer new and hip. Today it’s all about smartphones, apps, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s hard to know what sort of influence the RunnerSpace’s DyeStat will have on high school track and field and cross country but I am glad that it’s going to be around. Thank you John Dye for starting this and thank you RunnerSpace for taking the baton and continuing onward.

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