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
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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.

Tenaciousness

Ryan Whiting, the shot put champion, celebrates with the top 3 from the women's 5000. Photo from USATF.

Ryan Whiting, the shot put champion, celebrates with the top 3 from the women’s 5000. Photo from USATF.

You never know what is going to happen in sports. A five point deficit with 28.2 seconds left in a basketball game usually means you will lose the game. But not always. Trailing by three goals with ten minutes left in a hockey game is usually an insurmountable deficit. But not always. Not if you’re tenacious. It’s the unpredictable nature of competition that draws so many of us to sports in the first place.

At the 2013 USA Championships, the women’s 1500 meters was predicted to be a tightly contested race but most experts figured the three runners who would place in the top three and qualify for the World Championships in Moscow were Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Shannon Rowbury. But that’s why they run the race. In the USA spots on national teams are earned on the track, not on paper. If this race were run ten times, there might be ten different outcomes. But the only outcome that matters is what happened on the track at Drake Stadium on Saturday, June 22, 2013.

The pace was extremely slow – 85 seconds for the first 400, 2:40 at 800 meters. I have result sheets with splits faster than that from some of our high school meets this season. It was over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. It was windy. The humidity was high. No one wanted to lead the race and that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and a bunched up group of twelve runners. The race would come down to who could run the fastest last 400. For Shannon, this probably wasn’t the ideal scenario, but she had to deal with it. Cain, Moser, and Shannon pulled away from the rest of the field with 200 to go, but over the last 100 Cory McGee, a junior from the University of Florida, kicked by Shannon to get third place. Shannon found herself in unfamiliar territory – fourth place.

The bad news was that this meant Shannon was not guaranteed a spot on the team for the World Championships. She would have to wait to see if McGee achieved the B standard (4:09.00). Having another athlete’s performance determine your fate is not a situation any athlete wants to be in. The good news was that Shannon’s 2013 USA Championships did not have to be over. The next day was the 5000 meter final, in which she was entered. It’s not her primary event. It’s 12.5 laps. Her legs would be tired from two 1500 meter races (the preliminary round and the final) she had already run this week. It would still be hot, windy, and humid. But if Shannon wanted to clinch a spot to Moscow, this was her way to do it.

Christina Young triple jumping in 2004.

Christina Young triple jumping in 2004.

The situation reminded me of another Sacred Heart Cathedral track & field athlete – Christina Young. Christina was in the class of 2004, two years behind Shannon. They were teammates in the 2002 season. When Christina was senior, her primary event was the long jump. At our WCAL Trials meet, however, she had a bad day, jumping 15-4 (15 feet, 4 inches) well less than her season best of 16-5. She finished thirteenth and failed to qualify for the final. As I said at our awards banquet in 2004, “all Christina had left was the triple jump, which was not her best event…but it was about to be.”

Some background on Christina’s triple jumping. In late April of her senior year Christina would often jump less than 30 feet in the triple jump. As of April 27 her best mark was 30-11. She improved to 31-10.5 at a meet against Valley Christian. That next weekend she missed a meet in Carmel. At that meet in Carmel, Christina’s teammate, just out from the basketball team, jumped 34-7 in the triple jump to become the team leader in that event. At our next dual meet Christina had a one foot PR, improving to 32-10. Then at WCAL Trials, with her back against the wall as she had already failed to qualify for the final in the long jump, she placed fourth with yet another PR of 33-1. Then on May 15, she had the meet of her life. She not only set a new PR of 35-5.75 (that’s a 2 foot, 4 inch PR). She took first to become the WCAL Champion…in her off event! Over the last 18 days of the season she improved 4.5 feet. I’ll never forget Christina. She was versatile and she was tenacious. When the long jump didn’t go well, she didn’t let it bring her down. She set her sights on the triple jump. Not only did she PR in the triple jump, she became the league champion.

When I went to bed Saturday night, I didn’t know if Shannon would be running the 5000 or not. From the interviews I’ve seen, she may not have known herself. But Shannon, like Christina, is a fighter. She wanted to be on the team to Moscow so she had to put the disappointment of the 1500 behind her and take her best shot in the 5000.

The early pace of the 5000 was modest, which was good for Shannon. With about a mile to go, Shannon was well positioned. The others in contention were Jenny Simpson, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Kim Conley, Abby D’Agostino, Chelsea Reilly, and Shannon. Hastings, tired from the 10,000 on Thursday, would drop out. Six runners remained. With a lap to go, all six were still in it. Conley led with a lap to go. On the backstretch Huddle would take the lead from Conley and a few meters later Simpson would take the lead from Huddle. Simpson and Huddle would battle to the line for the top two places. Meanwhile with 300 to go Shannon was in sixth place and slowly losing ground on the others. With 200 to go, Shannon started moving up on D’Agostino and it looked like she might have a shot at fourth. Suddenly Reilly started to tie up in the last 100 and Conley surged by her. But Shannon, who later said she was thinking about Moscow and her late grandmother, Nonie, kicked it into another gear in the last half lap and passed Reilly and Conley to get third place!

I’ve been privileged to witness some amazing kicks by Shannon over the last fifteen years. Her kick to get third place by one hundredth of a second at the 2011 USA Championships stands out. And her kick at the 2013 USA Championships, again to get third place but this time in her “off event” showed Shannon’s tenaciousness.

Athletes that are tenacious, don’t make excuses when things don’t go the way they want. They don’t let a disappointing performance get them down. They can comeback from disappointment in their main event. They fight for a spot or a championship no matter how the odds are stacked against them. By being tenacious and not giving up, these athletes sometimes shock everyone with a performance that earns a lot of people’s respect. That’s tenaciousness. That’s Christina Young and Shannon Rowbury.

Two Olympians. One High School. No Home Track.

The names Tina Kefalas and Shannon Rowbury both appear on this all-league plaque in the Sacred Heart Cathedral trophy case.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC), a Catholic school in San Francisco founded over 150 years ago and with a current enrollment of 1,257 students, can make a claim that very few other schools around the country can make. SHC has two alumni going to the 2012 London Olympics in track & field – Tina Kefalas, class of 1995 in the marathon for Greece, and Shannon Rowbury, class of 2002 in the 1500 meters for the USA. Even more amazing is the fact that the school does not have a home track.

As the current head cross country and track & field coach I can say that I’ve never seen not having a home track as a detriment to our program. The kids in our program are blessed because there is a lot of variety in their training schedule. It isn’t meet out at the track after school every day at 3:30. In fact, I think the time the kids spend taking the bus together to practice is part of their experience that makes being on the SHC track & field team special and unique. It also helps weed out who is really dedicated to the sport. It takes a great deal of commitment to get yourself to practice off-campus via public transportation day after day.

Tina Kefalas racing for the Irish in Golden Gate Park.

Kefalas was the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters when she graduated from SHC in 1995. She was the first runner in school history to qualify for the cross country state meet. She remembers going on a road trip to Colorado Springs with her coach, Mr. Denis Mohun (also a graduate of the school in 1979) and some other runners from the team. “It was the turning point for me.  My first two years I was playing volleyball and track and after that trip, I finally decided to run cross country,” recalls Keflas. She also is proud to have won the school’s Vincent Contrero Award for excellence in both academics and athletics.

In the fall of 1998, SHC hired a new coach to head both the cross country and track & field

Shannon Rowbury racing for the Irish as a freshman in 1998.

program. That person was me. I had the good timing to arrive at SHC the same season as a freshman who would change my life, a freshman named Shannon Rowbury.

Rowbury would go on to win two state championships and seven section champions during her SHC career. She was nationally ranked in the 800, 1600, 3200 meters and cross country and supplanted Kefalas as the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters.

One of my fondest times during Rowbury’s high school career was her whole senior year of track & field. We both knew that this was the eighth and final season together at SHC. We took time to really soak it all up and enjoy the ride. She set numerous meet records, would sign autographs at meets, and together we would be interviewed for both television and newspaper articles. It was just a lot of fun and we made a point to have fun and enjoy every moment of it.

John Scudder (class of 1972), has been around SHC for thirty-two years and he recalls both students fondly. “I remember Tina and Shannon well. During Tina’s time at SHC, I was the Dean of Students; she was a model student who never found it necessary to take a trip to the Dean’s office. While Shannon attended SHC, I was the Principal. She too was active at school well beyond athletics. It is amazing to think she was so successful on the track, while all the time focusing on her work in the classroom,” said Scudder. Now serving the school as President, Scudder said, “I am so proud of their accomplishments. I know I speak for the entire SHC community in wishing Tina and Shannon the best of luck during the upcoming competition. Go Irish!”  

After high school, Keflas went on to run at the University of Southern California. She then moved to Greece, where she continued to run at a high level. In 2008, in her first 3000 steeplechase of the season she ran 9:55.96, less than one second off the Olympic “B” standard, which would have been enough to qualify to represent Greece at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately she was injured in her second race and that ended her season and thus her 2008 Olympic dreams. Kefalas then decided to run the 2010 Athens Marathon, which also happened to be the 2500th anniversary of the historic run by the messenger Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. that gave the marathon race distance its name. She completed the marathon in two hours, 40 minutes, and 36 seconds, well under the Olympic “B” standard but unfortunately before the qualifying period for the 2012 Olympic marathon began. Kefalas would need to run another marathon closer to the Olympics in sub-2:43 to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. On April 22, 2012 at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands she ran 2:41:00 to stamp her ticket to London.

Rowbury competed for Duke University after high school and since college has been a professional runner, sponsored by Nike. Her breakthrough season was 2008, when she lowered her 1500 meter personal record from 4:12.31 to 4:00.33. She qualified for the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing and has also represented the USA at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. She’s finished in the top three at the US Championships in the 1500 each of the last five years, has been ranked as high third as in the world (2009), and is the eighth fastest women’s 1500 meter runner in US history.

Kefalas will race in the women’s marathon in London, which is Sunday, August 5. She said that her goal is to break 2:40.

Rowbury will race in the women’s 1500 meters in London. The first round race is Monday, August 6, the semi-final race is Wednesday, August 8, and the final is Friday, August 10. In an interview after the Olympic Trials, Rowbury stated that her goal is to “get on the podium,” which means placing in the top three to earn one of the coveted Olympic medals.

As you watch the 2012 London Olympics, almost every athlete you see will have some sort of backstory. They competed in high school, they had a high school coach, at some point making the Olympics became, first a dream, and then reality. But when you’re watching the track & field portion of the Olympics, remember that two of the athletes attended the same Catholic school in downtown San Francisco. The one without a home track.

Driving The Bus

Posted in Coaching,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on May 24, 2012
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Patrick Scott driving the team home from yet another meet.

 

Any good head coach will tell you, any success you have is most likely due to the athletes and your support staff. The athletes are the ones doing the training and are out there competing. Good assistant coaches make all the difference because they are hands on with the athletes on a day-to-day basis. Behind the scenes you also have the trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and a host of other vital people who comprise a track & field program. This past season the Sacred Heart Cathedral track & field team had one other key player who contributed to our success – one of our bus drivers, Patrick Scott.

We first met Patrick last spring when he drove the team to the Central Coast Section (CCS) Finals in Gilroy, and then waited patiently in the parking lot at Applebee’s while the team shaved my head to celebrate our three state meet qualifiers. During the fall cross country season we often had Patrick again, and I requested him specifically for our two overnights, to the Mt. Sac Invitational and the state meet in Fresno. He was always laid back and flexible about things. The kids liked him and he genuinely showed an interest in getting to know them. One time when we pulled into a shopping center for lunch, Patrick got on the PA system and told the kids where all the “hot spots” were – “In ‘n’ Out is in this section, cross the street to the right to get to McDonald’s, cross the street to the left to go to Starbuck’s.” It was awesome. While we were at the meet, Patrick had been scouting the area to help us quickly find the food of our choice right after the meet.

This track & field season, week after week, meet after meet, when I walked up Gough Street to our bus, there was Patrick sitting in the driver’s seat. An avid sports fan, Patrick admitted to not knowing too much about track & field. But at most meets he would come in and watch and cheer. He got to know the kids and what events they did. One afternoon, it warmed my heart when I saw Patrick giving fist bumps to the kids as they boarded the bus. Another time when we coaches got our wires crossed and we only had one coach (me) for two buses, we had no choice but to send the kids on the bus with Patrick with no coach. When we got back from the meet, Patrick sent me a text message reporting that the kids had behaved superbly and that they left the bus extra clean. I was proud of our kids that day, but also it reinforced the idea that since Patrick was so polite to them, they just naturally reciprocated. Almost every kid thanks Patrick by name for driving us when they get off the bus back at school.

Halfway through this season I was having problems coordinating my ride home after meets. My wife was picking up our car at the end of her work day and going home. This season I had no assistant coach living near me to give me a ride. On a lark, I asked Patrick if he was going back to the Coach USA yard after dropping us off, and if he was, could I get a ride there. The Coach USA yard off of Evans Street is an easy three minute drive for my wife to pick me up, as opposed to a thirty minute drive (fifteen each way) if she had to come to school to get me. A ride with Patrick to Evans Street became our weekly ritual. Patrick would comment on some of the things he saw at the meet and I could explain some of the nuances of track & field to him.

As if this wasn’t enough, when one of the kids left her laptop on the bus, I called Patrick. Typically a forgotten item like that is placed in the Coach USA office and the kid and their parents have to go retrieve it during business hours the next day. Even though it was 9:30 P.M., Patrick went back to the bus to retrieve the laptop. He called me saying he had it. I had walked to dinner so I didn’t have my car with me and couldn’t go get it from him. Patrick’s solution? He asked for directions to where I was having dinner and he drove the laptop to me.

Because of this terrific relationship that our team has with our bus driver, I look forward to opportunities to buy Patrick a meal when we’re on the road or invite him to our end of year banquet. I think he’s become a real track & field fan, too. Although we probably won’t be using a bus for the CCS meet this year, Patrick has already indicated that he’s kind of hooked on our team now and wants to see us through to end. He’s texted me after CCS Trials, asking “How’d we do today?” and I know he’s trying to take the day off and driving himself down to Gilroy to cheer us on at the CCS Finals.

Now that’s a bus driver that’s part of the team!

Running for Sherry

Posted in Coaching,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on February 12, 2012
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On Saturday, February 11, 2012, I had the privilege of running for more than just myself.

As a high school coach, I look for opportunities to teach the students about life and how running can be a part of their life beyond high school. “Running is more than just training to run in a high school meet,” I began. I went on to mention that I was living proof that even after high school, one could run in order to compete and accomplish goals. I pointed out that running is often used as a means to raise funds for charities, through organizations like Team In Training. “Finally,” I said, “Running is a way to honor and remember people – sometimes people you don’t even know, and that’s what we will do today.”

I went on to describe Sherry Arnold, someone about the same age as me, a math teacher at Sidney High School in Montana, a mother, a wife, and a fellow runner. I told the team that on January 7, 2012, she went out for a run and didn’t come home and that it appears she was abducted and killed.

It was a good reminder to all of us runners to be as safe as possible when out running. I reiterated to the team that they are not to wear headphones while running so that they can hear things all around them. I re-emphasized the importance of paying attention to the traffic and people around them. I re-stated our policy that they run the exact route the coaches prescribe and that they try to always be with a teammate or at least in earshot of one.

I then told the team that we would join thousands of other runners around the country in honoring Sherry Arnold by participating in a virtual run. I passed out the running bib for Sherry and safety pins. When everyone had their bib on, we gathered for a prayer led by my assistant coach, Natalie Martinez:

Let us remember… That we are in the holy presence of God.

Let us pray in the memory of Sherry Arnold. A wife, mother, teacher and fellow runner whose life was cut too short one Saturday morning. Her tragic death is a simple reminder to be thankful and appreciative of the many blessings we have especially the chance to run on this team. Let us celebrate her life, her spirit, her strength and courage as we run in her honor today.  And we pray we have a safe and successful track season. 

Holy Founders…Pray for us

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.

After that, we headed off for our run. We ran what the kids call the “box run,” a route that includes the beauty of Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. We’ve done this run many times but today, running for Sherry, it was just a little bit more meaningful.

Assistant Coaches – Tomas Palermo, one of the best

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on January 28, 2012
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SHC Coaches always in sync.

I’ve had plenty of great moments as the head coach of the Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) cross country and track & field teams. I’m now in my fourteenth year of being the head coach and my list of successes on the track, in the field, on the race course, and most importantly in the development of young men and women is endless. I am smart enough to know that I owe much of the program’s success to the athletes out there training and competing, and to the assistant coaches.

Assistant coaches work behind the scenes teaching techniques, offering encouraging words, providing motivation, and being a good listener; they make or break a program. I would love to be able to teach every athlete on the team techniques, offer them all encouraging words, provide them all with personalized motivation, and have time to talk to and listen to each athlete one-on-one every day. But there is just one of me and forty-five athletes in cross country and ninety-five athletes in track & field. I can’t be everywhere and I can’t be everything for every athlete everyday. This is where strong assistant coaches are vital.

I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with good assistants. My main criteria when looking at potential assistant coaches is passion for the sport, patience, and a sense of how the high school athletic experience fits into the life of a high school student. I’m not looking for tons of technical training experience. It’s nice if they know the sport, but if not I can teach it to them. First they have to be passionate about the sport. Their enthusiasm will rub off on the kids. Also, with passion comes a willingness to learn coaching and training techniques. Patience is a virtue, and it certainly is necessary when working with high school kids. You have to be willing to sacrifice your time for the kids. You have to be able to cajole them into doing things. You have to not judge the book by its cover, but instead take the time to find the hidden gem inside each of the kids. High school athletics is a co-curricular experience. There are rules that need to be enforced, and the goal is to train hard and to be as successful as possible. But this needs to fit into the framework of the activity being only a high school sport, not life and death. Coaches are educators and the top priority is to teach life lessons. Kids won’t remember in ten years what place they came in at the league finals but they’ll remember the bus ride to the meet with their friends. That’s how it works and there’s nothing wrong with that. I want assistant coaches who can make sure the athlete is challenged and having fun at the same time. If the kids get both, then being on the SHC cross country or track & field team will be one of the highlights of their high school days.

Coach Tomas in his first season in 2004.

On Monday, January 30, the 2012 track & field season will officially begin. It will be the first season since 2004 that Tomas Palermo isn’t on my SHC coaching staff. I first recruited Tomas to coach with me in 2004. He ran with the adult track workout group that I coach and he clearly possessed the traits described above that I look for in an assistant coach. He didn’t have previous coaching experience but that didn’t matter to me. The fact that he ran at St. Francis High School, one of our league rivals, counted neither for him or against him. For the last fifteen seasons, eight in cross country and seven in track & field, Tomas has been there. We’ve celebrated school records, Central Coast Section (CCS) and State Meet qualifiers, as well as kids just developing into fine young men and women. We’ve mulled over meet line-ups, training plans, and disciplinary issues. What’s best for the program? What’s best for the kid in the big picture?

Over the years Tomas has developed great coaching skills. His familiarity with my style allows him to echo my thoughts to kids and tweak workouts as necessary. He’s been a mentor for numerous SHC kids. Ironically, seven girls from Tomas’ first cross country season in 2004 have been or are going to come back and be an assistant coach at SHC. At meets he meticulously records splits with the exacting detail that I like (first leg of the 4X4 splits at the 800 start line and the rest of the legs are split at the finish line). At practice he helps come up with the assistant coach assignments so that all the assistants get to interact with different kids and still perform the necessary assigned training duties. He has an uncanny sense of when something memorable is about to take place and he grabs the camera to photograph the moment.

His relationships with the kids are, however, what make him special. He can talk Giants baseball during a long run with Nate W., sit in the stands with Izzy A. before practice, start a pull-up competition with Geoffrey Y. and Dominic R., discuss music with James M. and Bryan F., video games with Daniel K., and writing and movies with Sophie C-B. “DJ Tomas,” “Tommy,” and “Coach T” are just some of his nicknames, and we coaches all know that getting a nickname from the kids is basically their stamp of approval. In our end of season evaluations kids always reference the good advice and inspiration that he provides. One student thanked him for staying with him for a long run, both to help him not get lost and also for motivating him to run the whole way. Another evaluation red, “Coach Tomas is the bomb diggity” (Urban Dictionary translation: totally the awesomest, no lie).

I will always remember Tomas’s first season in 2004. It had been an emotional season. In September the top returning girl, Melanie S. broke her leg on a freak fall at the end of practice. The girls were devastated and it took a lot of energy to keep them from falling apart emotionally. Our chances of the girls team qualifying for State Meet went down significantly without Melanie S. At the same time we had a good young boys team but no one that was expected to make it to State. That was the team dynamic as we headed to Toro Park in Salinas for the CCS Championships. Melanie S. came with us and gave a great speech the night before the race. As a first year coach, Tomas came to me the morning of the race and commented that the kids were all going to really “leave it all out there” and we coaches should be ready at the finish line to help carry some of them through the finish chute. Tomas couldn’t have been more right. He read the mood of the team and the look in their eyes and thus we were ready with extra water and staff at the finish line. “Leaving it all out there” is now pretty much a hallmark of the SHC teams. I often associate the beginning of this tradition to that day back in 2004 and Tomas’ first CCS meet as a coach.    

At the 2004 CCS Championships - we left it all out there on this day!

It’s been a great run of eight years with Tomas as a SHC assistant coach. I’m sure he’ll still come around and cheer on the team because not only is he passionate about the sport, he’s passionate about seeing the SHC teams compete. Life takes many turns and I suspect someday he may wear the SHC coach hat again because his heart is definitely in education. But for now, I must face the 2012 season without my trusted friend and fellow coach. Tomas, that evaluation had it right, you are the bomb diggity!

Coach Tomas is the bomb diggity!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Posted in Coaching,Pamakid Runners,SHC Cross Country,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on December 26, 2011

I’ve seen various “12 Days of Christmas” lists so I thought I would put together my own. Re-capping my year in running and coaching, I give you They Chanman’s 12 Days of Christmas:

 

12 – Twelve dogs (and two Eskimos) in a Bay to Breakers Pamapede Iditarod centipede.

11 – Eleven (and a half) miles, the least number of miles I ran every week this year.

10 – Ten (and a half) miles from Wunderlich to Huddardt and back. I finally made it all the way to both ends. This was one of many long trail runs this summer that got me into great shape.

9 – Ninth row at the finish line, our seats at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.

8 – Eighth master runner at the Zippy 5K, a race where I achieved a major goal of mine, breaking 17 minutes for a 5K as a master.

 

Racing at the 2011 Zippy 5K

7 – Seven events at CCS Finals, in which the Irish Track & Field team had an individual qualify. We had someone place in the top five in all seven events.

6 – Six Irish athletes qualified and competed at the State Track & Field meet. First time we’ve had someone qualify since 2003.

5 – Five dollars, the new price for Thursday night track workouts. After seventeen years at the original $4 price, I raised my rates effective July 1, 2011.

4 – Fourth place overall in the Pacific Association Grand Prix (Short) Road Series in the masters division.

3 – Three cherry picker race first place overall finishes: Run For Recess 5K, July Fourth Rocket Run, Miles for Migraine 10K.

2 – Two years in a row the Irish qualified both the boys and girls teams for the State Cross Country Meet.

1 – One hundredth of a second, the amount of time by which Shannon Rowbury beat the fourth place woman in the 1500 meters at the USA Championships to qualify for the World Championships in Daegu.  

Shannon Rowbury battles Christin Wurth-Thomas at the finish of the women's 1500 meters at the 2011 USA Championships

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. And to all, Happy Running!

How I Became A Coach

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on September 8, 2011
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One of my first meets as a head coach, the 1998 Lowell Invitational

The theme for the academic year at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHCP) is “Connect.” At the opening day meeting Principal Gary Cannon asked us to think about how we came to work in education and to be a member of the faculty or staff at the school and to share their story with colleagues as way for us co-workers to “connect” with one another.

It didn’t take much thinking for me to figure out my story.

Me during my podiatry days.

After graduating from UCLA I enrolled in podiatry school. My plan was to be a doctor of podiatric medicine and specialize in sports medicine. In 1996, during my third year of the four year program, I realized that podiatry wasn’t for me. I found myself studying the same material over and over for board exams and interviews. I just couldn’t seem to commit the information to memory. It made for some stressful and un-enjoyable times. I noticed that some of my podiatry colleagues seemed to have no trouble remembering the information for exams and interviews. One night, I thought to myself, “If tomorrow’s interview was about coaching running, I wouldn’t have to stay up late to study because I just know that stuff.” That was my enlightenment moment.

My podiatry classmates felt the same way about podiatry that I felt about coaching. They were meant to be podiatrists. I was not. I was meant to be a coach.

I finished my four years of podiatry school and did a one-year residency, but after my enlightenment things were different. I was quite certain that I wasn’t going to pursue a career in the podiatry field. I finished school to get my degree (Yes, that’s Dr. Coach Chan to you) and completed a residency just in case I had a change of heart later on. During that time, however, I was looking into ways to have a career that included coaching.

Right after my residency ended, I began a master’s program in Sports Management at the University of San Francisco (USF). I wasn’t sure where this would lead but it seemed promising. The sports management program was a two year program with one nightly class a week. Since I had no job and nothing else going on, I decided to condense this down to one year – so I took two classes a week. In addition to the classes and the associated work load, I also started an internship with Special Olympics Northern California (SONC). Three days a week I drove out to Pleasant Hill to volunteer at SONC as the sports program intern. My job was to assist with the 1998 SONC Fall Classic, a multi-sport competition in Sacramento. This internship was required to earn my master’s degree but it was also an opportunity to see if I liked running competitions from the management side of things.

That same summer that I began the master’s program and the SONC internship, my mom saw an advertisement in the San Francisco Independent that said Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory was looking for a head cross country coach. I had wanted to be a head high school cross country coach since high school so I applied. I interviewed with Ms. Jo Ann Momono and gave her my resume. Before I even got home I got a call from one of my references at UCLA; Ms. Momono had already called to check my references. The next day I got a call and was invited to be the SHCP head cross country coach. A few months later I accepted the additional position of head track & field coach at SHCP.

Working for Special Olympics.

At the same time my internship with SONC was taking off. Kimberly Kellett and Roger Slingerman were giving me more and more responsibilities. At first I was only supposed to be an intern for the Fall Classic in November. But I stayed on after that to help prepare for the next year’s Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina. Before I knew it was getting a small stipend from SONC and was invited to be part of the SONC delegation to the World Games in the summer of 1999.

At the start of the summer of 1998, I had very little on my plate. For the first time in five years I had no podiatry obligations. I also had no job. But 1998-99 turned into the busiest academic year of my life. I spent two nights a week at class at USF. Three days a week I worked at SONC. Plus I had daily head coaching responsibilities at SHC. By the time the summer of 1999 rolled around, I had completed my master’s degree in sports management, gone to North Carolina for the Special Olympics World Games, been offered a full-time job with SONC as the Sports Manager for the San Francisco program, and coached a then freshman named Shannon Rowbury, who would go on to some great achievements in the sport of running.

It just goes to show that you never know where life will take you. I spent five years working for SONC. During those five years I continued as the SHCP head coach, juggling the two jobs as best I could. It wasn’t easy being an off-campus coach but I loved both jobs even thought it was quite hectic at times.

In the summer of 2003 there were some changes at SONC and I was not going to be able to continue to work there and coach at SHC. The decision was really quite easy. I was not going to give up coaching. I left the job at SONC with the idea of coaching one more season while looking for a job that would allow me to continue to coach. There were no guarantees I would find such a job but coaching meant enough to me that I was going to give this a try.

That same summer of 2003, SHCP was about to open the Sister Teresa Piro, DC Student Life Center and they were looking for a Facilities Coordinator. I interviewed for that job and was hired. Due to some fortuitous timing, I never had any interruption in medical insurance. I never really even had time to go looking for another job. All I had to deal with was a two week summer vacation between the end of one job and the start of the other.

I started as a full-time staff member the first week of September 2003, eight years ago this week. I am now embarking on my fourteenth year as the head cross country coach, my ninth as an on-campus coach.

Life may have a change or surprise or two left for me. Maybe another Olympic caliber athlete will come my way? Maybe another job change? Who knows? But what I do know is that I love coaching runners. The sports of cross country and track & field have been good to me. They’ve opened doors to opportunities to meet and interact with wonderful people – athletes, assistant coaches, fellow coaches, and opposing runners. Coaching high school runners is especially rewarding because they are young and impressionable. It’s a privilege to teach life lessons and my passion for the sport to the next generation of runners.

One of my favorite things about coaching - talking to the team.

The California State Track & Field Meet

In 1915, the state of California held its first ever state championships track & field meet. The meet took place in Fresno with 91 male athletes representing 28 different schools. Points were scored in 13 events (100, 220, 440, 880, Mile, 120 Highs, 220 Lows, 880 Relay, Shot Put, Discus, Pole Vault, High Jump, and Broad Jump). In addition, there were non-scoring competitions in the javelin and hammer throw. In 1974, the first official girls competition took place at the California state meet.

Over the years the California state meet has garnered a great deal of respect for its elite competition. There are no divisions or classes at the California state meet based on school size. To win a track & field state championship in California means that the athlete is number one in the entire state. It is no wonder that since 1994, future Olympians including Mebrahtom Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, Allyson Felix, Shannon Rowbury, Chaunte Howard-Lowe, Stephanie Brown, Joanna Hayes, Lashinda Demus, Sharon Day, Jill Camarena, Suzy Powell, Michael Stember, Tyree Washington, Monique Henderson, and Angela Williams have won California state championships.

The last time an athlete from Sacred Heart Cathedral qualified for the state meet was 2003. Future women’s Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Michelle Gallagher represented the Irish that year. Gallagher had a terrific regular season, setting personal records of 2:17 (800) and 4:57 (mile). Her best race was a 10:33.04 that earned her fifth place in the 3200 meters at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational and ranked her in the top fifteen in the nation. At the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) Finals, she was second in the 1600 (4:57.13) and set meet record that still stands in the 3200 meters (10:49.11).

One week later, Gallagher came down with the flu. She attended the SHC graduation ceremony and then her mom drove her to the Central Coast Section (CCS) Trials Meet. When she arrived she didn’t look good. She was determined to run the 3200 to try to place in the top 12 to qualify for the CCS Finals. Fortunately she was talented enough that it didn’t take her best effort to qualify on. In the days that followed that race she was still not feeling great so she did pretty light workouts leading up to CCS Finals. At CCS Finals she faced some tough competition in defending champion Ruth Graham of Gunn High School and Melissa Grelli of Presentation, who beat Gallagher at the state meet in cross country. We decided that since she was not 100% healthy, it was in her best interest to not go for the win but instead to run for third place to qualify for the state meet. Tough as it was for her to let the other two beat her, it was the right decision. Gallagher ran conservatively for most of the race, finishing in 11:01.45, eighteen seconds behind Graham and twelve seconds behind Grelli – but more importantly eight seconds ahead of the fourth place runner.

Now that she was qualified for the state meet, I had some decisions to make. Normally I fill the week between CCS Finals and the state meet with light running to rest up for the championship race. But in Gallagher’s case she had missed a great deal of training, and she was a runner who thrived on hard training. I consulted with a coaching friend that I respect, Don Paul, and decided that I would do something a little different. I gave Gallagher hard interval workouts on Monday and Wednesday, leading up to the Saturday state championship race. On Monday she ran 2X400 (80, 79), 4X800 (2:41, 2:40, 2:41, 2:38), and 2X200 (34, 33). On Wednesday she ran 1600 (5:20), 3XPower 500 (94, 95, 98), 2X200 (33,33). This was much more intensity and volume than I would give any other runner I’ve ever coached in high school the week of a big race – except for Gallagher.

Throughout Gallagher’s career we always battled about the race plan. She tended to go out fast and would fade in the final laps. I liked it when she ran even or negative splits. Her best paced race was the 10:33 at Arcadia when she ran 5:21 for the first 1600 and 5:12 for second 1600. I wanted her to run a similar race at state. After the first lap, run in 76 seconds, she was in eighteenth place. Then she locked in. She ran 80, 81, and 81 for the next three laps and moved up to eleventh place at the midway point, splitting 5:19 for the first 1600. On lap five she ran another 81 but passed three people, including Grelli, to move into eighth place. On lap six she ran an 80 and passed three more people, including Graham, to move into fifth place. It was going perfectly. She was running a steady pace and as everyone else slowed down she moved up. On the seventh lap she ran an 82 and passed one more runner to move into fourth place, where she stayed. Her final time was 10:41.37. She moved from eighteenth place to fourth place during the race. She had the satisfaction of being the top runner from the CCS, beating the two runners who had beaten her the week before at CCS Finals, when she had to just let them go in order to make sure she qualified. It was a proud coaching moment for me.

A photo essay of Michelle Gallagher's 2003 State Meet 3200 meter race.

Eight years have passed since that state meet. We had a near-qualifier in 2007, when James Mabrey placed fifth at CCS Finals in the high jump and triple jump. On Friday May 27, 2011, the Irish have athletes competing in seven events at the CCS Finals. We did a great job to qualify so many people this far. I believe that anything can happen at CCS Finals. There are eight invitations in each event to the CCS Finals and we are happy to have one of them in seven different events. On Friday we will compete in the girls shot put, the girls 400, the boys 100, the boys 800, the boys 200, and both the girls and boys 4X400 relay. The top three will go to the state meet. We have seven shots at getting to the state meet. Maybe we’ll qualify in all seven. Maybe we won’t qualify in any. It’s the unknown that makes this week so exciting.

The California state championship meet is an amazing meet to be at. The competition is fierce. It’s an honor and a privilege to compete at a meet of its caliber. I would love the honor and privilege to be coaching at the state meet this season. I’ve even promised the team that if someone qualifies they can shave my head bald. The road to state goes through Gilroy this Friday. Go Irish!

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