I think I will remember this decade as the decade I established myself as a successful coach. In the 90’s, I was still pretty competitive myself as a runner and I was a little more focused on my own running and racing than coaching. During the 90’s, I ran three marathons and set most of my PR’s. I also laid the groundwork for my coaching career (team manager at UCLA, asst. coach at Lowell, started Thursday night track workouts for the DSE), but it has been in the last ten years that I have made a bigger impact as a coach.
When the decade began I was 29 years old and had been a head coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHCP) for just one and a half years. Although I had been coaching the Thursday night track workouts for five years, it was quite different – there was no Pamakid Runners club involvement and on average just eight to ten people were at each track workout.
Now as the decade ends, I am 39 years old and am in my twelfth year as head coach at SHCP. Thursday night track workouts have been going for fifteen years and we average 15-20 people at each workout. I am both President and Coach of the Pamakids and also coach many people privately.
I won’t rank my top ten coaching memories from this decade, but instead will list them in chronological order. If you are reading this as a word file, you can click on the hyperlinks for more details about the event.
I’d never really followed the discus much as a coach. Before 2000, a high schooler throwing the discus 140 feet was pretty darn good to me. That all changed with Tony. When Tony threw, the discus just soared and soared like a Frisbee. All season long meet officials didn’t believe me when I warned them that we had a kid who could throw the discus over their boundary flags. This was most apparent on an April evening at UC Davis. Tony nearly hit the official with his 182-11 toss (fourth best in the state at that point in the season). We had to help the official mark the throw because he was more focused on getting out of the way than spotting the landing of the throw. Tony went on to throw a best of 194-4 (I missed this throw because Shannon Rowbury had an 800 race at the same time) and placed sixth at the State Meet.
June 2001 – Shannon Rowbury winning the State Meet 800.
Shannon and I shared a lot of great moments when she was in high school (Arcadia 800 win, Outdoor Nationals win, State Champion in the 1600) but her first State Championship stands out in my mind as special above the others.
April 2002 – The Varsity Boys beating Mitty in a dual meet.
It had been at least ten years since SHCP’s Varsity Boys had won a dual meet. We targeted April 17, 2002 as our chance to end the streak. It was a back and forth battle and it all came down to our victory in the 4X400 Relay.
The dream of getting the boy’s team to State Meet started two years earlier. It was a tight battle between six schools for the four qualifying spots. Our theme was “Be a hero and let’s get to that big dance in Fresno.”
A week before the race I announced that I would run 7:20 pace for the first seven miles of the race to help people hit their goal of a 1:36 half marathon. I had a good-sized group of runners and I was really proud when everyone came in at or under their goal time. It was during this run, from mile four to six, that Sara Saba and I discussed how to go about fielding a Pamakid women’s cross country team in the near future. Less than three short years later, the Pamakids cross country team grew to include men and women, open and masters.
May 2007/May 2009 – Coaching the whole kid, not just the athlete.
A high school coach is tasked with more than making someone successful in sport. I am proud to have played a role in the development of two special people: James Mabrey (2007) and Tammia Hubbard (2009). Both of these individuals came to SHCP thinking that they were basketball players. They faced numerous challenges but through our hard work they were successful in school and ended their high school careers as league champions.
I was coaching Michelle in her first year after finishing college. After she ran a fast time at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll half marathon, her goal changed from just running a marathon to going for a sub-2:47.
Everything happened fast from early-May to early-July. Shannon was home in San Francisco training for the Olympic Trials and I volunteered to help her in any way that I could. For the most part that meant meeting her at the track to help her do Coach John Cook’s workouts and talking to her about anything and everything. There was a bit of a media blitz as Shannon went from chasing the “A” standard to being the favorite to win. It was all a brand new experience for me – especially the priceless moment: watching the kids you coached in high school make the Olympics!
December 2009 – Seeing Pamakids succeed at CIM.
It was a wildly successful day for the Pamakids at CIM – all three relay teams placed second in their division (thanks in part to the now famous meet sheet). In addition there were numerous PR’s among the thirteen Pamakid marathoners and all four people that I was coaching achieved their goal of a Boston qualifier.
There’s nothing quite like doing a relay race. You get the excitement of competition. The camaraderie of teammates. And if you’re out of shape, there’s nothing like riding the coattails of your faster relay team members.
The Pamakids racing team has been fairly active in the relay race department over the past two years. It all started with the Las Vegas Marathon in 2002. We had to pick up a runner via a message board at the last minute to fill out our team and Raymond Yu (Tower) had to hop on a Greyhound bus from LA but we all arrived there, ran and found that it can be a lot of fun. The next thing you knew we had Pamakids teams showing up at all the major relay races: Lake Tahoe, Lake Natoma Half Marathon, Eppie’s Great Race and Cal International Marathon. And let’s not forget the 2001 Napa to Santa Cruz (Providian) Relay, for which the Pamakids were featured in a story in the SF Chronicle. We’ve represented the Pamakids green very well with three first place, a second place and a third place division finish to our credit.
One key to our success has to be the “meet sheet”. In fact at every race in which the participants have read the meet sheet, no one has driven the wrong way down Highway 50. The meet sheet is an information packed page with directions to and from exchange zones, expected arrival times, car logistic plans, etc. For the recently completed CIM Relay, Andy Chan picked up Cedric Barre at 5:00am in San Francisco, dropped him off at Tower’s car in Sacramento at the 20.5 mile mark (which was parked at this strategic location the night before) and then drove to his relay exchange zone at the half marathon mark. Often times one could argue that the easiest part of the day is when you get the baton and start running.
We’ve been lucky to have a great support crew. Christine Jegan has attended a lot of these races in the all-important: shuttle driver/photographer/cheerleader role. And at CIM this year, another friend, Janet Jew, got up at 4:30am just to give us another driver so we didn’t have to leave a car out on the course to retrieve later.
Passing the baton and running fast are only some of the requirements to place well in relays. Successful race day logistic management can make or break a team. Handing off car keys, finding someone else’s car and driving it to the next spot so that someone isn’t left standing in the cold with no sweats are key elements of the day (in 2002, poor Cedric was left in the cold at CIM for over an hour trying to stay warm with one of those aluminum foil blankets). If you drive a manual car, don’t forget to mention that to whoever is driving your car on race day. Some other tips if you are going to do a relay:
- Find a good race….maybe a race that someone you know is doing the full race. We’ve watched Ariel Parrish run a lot of PR’s while we were doing the relay. And Christine ran her Boston qualifier in Las Vegas while the rest of us were “relaying” it.
- The usual best strategy is to have your strongest runners run the longer legs.
- Use the race website to print maps, get directions and scout the competition/awards situation.
- Don’t forget to exchange car keys or make prior arrangements. Handing off sweats with car keys and a map for the incoming runner is a good way to do this and insure the incoming runner has something to wear.
- If possible, go to the race a day early so your team can have a pre-race strategy/dinner and enjoy some team bonding in the hotel the night before. The cost of the hotel is offset by not having to deal with major travel the morning of the race.
- Use the race management provided shuttles as little as possible. They tend to always get you to your start spot way early and do not leave your finish spot until the 15:00 pace runners have arrived. Don’t rely on sweat checks either. By the time you are re-united with your sweats at the finish, hypothermia has already set in.
- And for the real competitive people, out there, pay attention to who’s in the relay and who’s running the whole thing. CIM had relay teams put race numbers on the front and back for easy recognition. The baton/bracelet around the wrist is another hint. If you are contending for an award, it never hurts to spy or inquire if a team near you is in the same division (e.g. “Say, I see you are doing well. Are you a co-ed team?” or “Wow, you guys are way up there, you must be a high school team?”)
At the CIM Relay in 2003, we may have had one of our best team performances. We placed 3rd overall (out of 328 teams) and 1st in the running club division. In fact, our time of 2:41:22 was just 1 minute and 10 seconds behind the overall relay winner. Tower led off for us and ran a strong 1st leg putting us amongst the relay team leaders. Some of the marathoners, thinking Tower was running the whole 26.2 miles, questioned why this big guy was breathing so hard and kicking it in after just 5 ½ miles….but when they saw him hand off to John they understood –RELAY. John Spriggs’ 2nd leg, advertised as 7.2 miles was really closer to 7.7 miles. Still, John kept a great pace up and the Pamakids were in 3rd place when Andy took the baton. Andy’s leg had some crosswind and although he closed the gap on 1st and 2nd, the team was still in 3rd place when he handed off to Cedric with a little under 6 miles to go. Cedric ran a terrific anchor leg. As he approached the finish near the State Capitol, he put on a huge sprint and nearly caught the top 2 teams.
OTHER CIM 2003 RESULTS – Congratulations to David Parrish for re-qualifying for Boston with a 3:09:35 (213th/2943 runners). Ariel Parrish ran a PR of 3:58:53 (1st sub-4 hour). Malinda Walker completed her first marathon since New York 2000 at CIM.