1) What was your athletic experience before and during high school?
I grew up in Southeastern Connecticut. I started running in elementary school. We had a PE teacher who made us run laps on a grass field. I realized I was faster than everyone and liked the feeling! I bought one of my first pair of shoes from Amby Burfoot (winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon). The other sporting goods stores in my community were owned by Norm Higgins winner of the 1971 NYC Marathon and Johnny Kelley winner of the 1957 Boston Marathon so there was an incredible tradition of running that I was exposed to at an early age. In high school I played football, basketball and ran track. I thought the cross country runners were crazy! In track I earned a varsity letter for four years as a sprinter and jumper. My junior year my 4x100 team finished second in the state.
2) Who were the coaches that had the biggest impact on you as a person and athlete?
The coaches that influenced me most in high school were my track coaches Ken Rawn, Jeff Morin and Kevin Crowley. I remember we had T-Shirts that said “Hard Work, Good Times”. I had success as a freshman and they along with my older teammates just took me under their wings. They all had a love for the sport and we were just immersed in the 1970’s running boom. Jeff went on to marry Jan Merrill the American record holder at the time in the 800 and 1976 Olympian. Our girls cross country team under Kevin’s leadership went on to win 7 straight Connecticut State titles so it was hard not to get excited about the sport.
3) What led you into teaching and coaching? What do you teach at La Costa Canyon?
From that point I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. Because of my close relationship with my coaches, I had the opportunity in my sophomore year in college (I went to the University of Connecticut) to come back and coach at my old high school (Montville HS). At 19 I was an assistant football and track coach. We played in the State Championship in football and won the 1982 State Track Championship primarily on the back of our distance runners. We actually tied but won the coin toss to bring the trophy home. So at an early age I was learning from incredible coaches and working with the best runners in the state. I earned my degree in History from UConn but wanted to move to California because that’s where Dwight Stones the high jumper was from! In 1985 I moved to California and to broaden my job possibilities, I earned my masters in special education and I taught that for 19 years. I now teach AP United States History at LCC.
4) Did you coach at any other schools before LCC? What were your experiences there?
After coaching at my old high school I also coached track and basketball at East Lyme High School in Connecticut before moving to California and coached at San Dieguito H.S. in Encinitas before La Costa Canyon opened in 1996. I was the head boy’s basketball coach at San Dieguito from 1991-1996.
5) What was the state of the distance program when you arrived at LCC? How long have you been at LCC?
I’ve been the head Cross Country coach at LCC since 1998. The first two years I was coaching basketball. I had told the old coach, Matt Cunningham, that if he ever gave up the job to let me know. The day he resigned he came by and told me and I haven’t looked back. I remember those first few days of summer training. We had maybe 5 kids show up. It got better in the fall. Our motto was “Miles of Smiles”. Julia Cormano my first captain was the perfect example of that. We had some talented girls runners but they were soccer players.
6) What changes did you have to make to get the program to it's current level?
We were able to turn things around pretty quickly on the girl’s side. We had positive supportive coaches and we stressed a life long love of the sport. The kids started to be more dedicated year round. Those soccer players started to quit soccer. By 2003 they were legit. In 2004 our girls team was ranked #1 in SD for most of the season and we received our first national ranking in 2005 and ran, at the time, the 3rd fastest time at Mt. SAC. It was the realization that they needed to work hard and put in the miles. On the boys side it took a little longer. Our school is extremely athletic and other sports tend to suck away some of that talent. In 2004 we had a fantastic group of runners and ranked in the top 3 in the county. It certainly helped with the addition of Darren Fahy four years ago but the kids who came in at that time were dedicated to build a supporting cast and that group finished 2nd and 1st the last two years in the county. Their work ethic grew each year.
7) Who have been your coaching mentors that help you work through things to this day?
The one coaching mentor who I really owe it all to is Dave Sdao from East Lyme High School in Connecticut. I coached basketball and track with Dave. I mentioned our motto my first year, “Miles of Smiles” that was Dave’s. As coaches you learn early to "steal"! Dave has had incredible success with his runners and teams winning numerous state championships. The thing I learned from Dave is to never take yourself so serious that it gets in the way that you live your life. There has to be a balance. If I’m stressed my runners are stressed. As Neil Young said, “Long may you run.” I learned that tooling around with Dave in his convertible a long time ago and I’m still running and learning. I’m also extremely fortunate to be surrounded by coaching legends here in San Diego that I can talk to at any time. Brent Thorne from our sister school Torrey Pines has always had excellent words of advice. Dan Schaitel (Poway), Terry Dockery (Rancho Bernardo), Dennis McClanahan (Mt. Carmel), Mike Cummings (Valley Center) and Pat King (San Pasqual) are all Hall of Fame caliber coaches and I’ve been lucky to watch and learn from their success. I also really appreciate the advice and friendship of Jeff Messer from Xavier College Prep in Arizona. His girls can run!
8) Tell us a little about the cross country season last year. Expectations before season and how things played out.
Last year was a dream season. Our girls were coming off their first San Diego section championship and a runner up finish to Great Oak at the state meet. Our boys had finished 2nd in the section. Expectations were high and the kids promised each other to work their hardest and they did. The girls really wanted to get back to Nike Nationals. We found out in the summer we were moving down from D1 to D2 which meant Saugus, Simi Valley and Redondo Union on the girl’s side. We told the kids to be the best they needed to run against the best so we used it as a challenge. On the girls side our motivation in the section was to score a perfect 15. We scored 16! I couldn’t have been prouder. But what really made me cry was the boys also winning the section title. These guys had worked so hard and it wasn’t just about Darren. They wanted to prove they belonged so that was incredibly special. At the state meet our girls finished 2nd to Saugus and our boys finished 4th and Darren won the individual title. It was something I’ll never forget. Remember we’re talking California here. Our girls got their wish and returned to Nike Nationals and Darren qualified for the Footlocker Nationals. Not a bad year at all.
9) What are your summer expectations for your runners?
Our runners know they must build that base in the summer. We’ve had a great turnout. Depending on the level the kids will cover between 25-65 miles each week. These kids are wonderful. We meet 4-5 times a week and are preparing for running camp. I can’t believe it’s almost here!
10) What does a typical week look like for your team during cross country? Workouts? Length of long run?
During the season we will meet 6 times a week with the beginning of the season focused on their base and strength. We’ll do this in a variety of ways, hills, drills and skills. Mondays are typically our long day and we’ll go 75-90 minutes. Depending on when we have a meet our “hard” days would be Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday. All of our runs include some kind of incline. The constant reminder is that we are La Costa “Canyon”.
11) Darren Fahy joined exclusive company by completing the 1600/3200 double victory last year at the state track and field meet. Was the plan to double all along? What was the plan going into each race? What do you feel was his best race of the season?
Last year was a special year for Darren. We like to say he won the triple crown if you add in the state cross country title. Darren was really the architect for last year. He was disappointed with a less than stellar (in his mind) junior year. I noticed the focus early on. He put a lot of extra doubles in on his own during the year. Coming off of the cross season he got sick and didn’t run well at Footlocker which I think gave him added incentive to do well in the spring. Each race was different, many of them weren’t all out but served a specific purpose in his training. My assistant and our co-head track coach Taylor Hindle really put together a fantastic training plan for Darren this spring. Many of Darren’s races were used to pace his teammates to personal bests. In return Steven Fahy (Darren’s little brother) and Eric Causey were two of the reasons Darren was so successful. It was race by race all year. If Darren wanted to double at the end it was up to him. The plan after SDCIF was to have him just run the 3200 but after missing the scratch time he ended up in both. If it weren’t for the weather he may not have won both. After winning the 1600 it was all gravy at that point but with the field going out so slow in the 3200 because of the heat they played right into his hands. For me my favorite race of Darren’s last year was the cross country state meet. Coming around the corner into the last straight away the race was all his. I remember his Dad standing there yelling to him, “Enjoy it Darren.”
12) What are the primary differences between the cross country and the track and field training for your runners?
Our mileage for cross country is higher and we’re on a variety of surfaces as opposed to track. We do a lot more repeats and interval training at faster pacing in the spring and more tempos and cruise intervals in the fall. We have to be careful to mix it up so the kids don’t get bored doing the same workouts and it really is different training for different distances.
13) Your team resides in the San Diego Section yet the majority of your state meet competition is in the Southern Section. What do you have to do during the season to prepare your runners to compete well against the SS teams at the end of the season?
The Southern Section is pretty incredible but we’re lucky to have some outstanding competition here in San Diego. Torrey Pines has been a perennial state force and won the 2009 State Championship. Our girls have gotten better because of them. We really don’t talk about other teams. We just prepare them to do the best that they can do and when we end up at Mt. SAC and the State Meet against those teams we’re honored to run with them but we aren’t afraid either.
14) Anything else you would like to add.
It’s been an incredible run literally and figuratively for me. As I enter my 31st year of coaching I realize that it is an incredible sport with incredible people. I tell my runners to be proud of what they do. How often does a non-runner ask, “you do what?” I have been blessed to work with wonderful student athletes both in my classroom and on the fields. I have fantastic support from my family and coaches. Thanks for allowing me the time to reflect and on a sport that has introduced me to very special people.
Thank you very much for your time Bill! AJC