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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Catching up with Placer High School coach, Randall Fee...

Today we chat with Placer High School Cross Country head coach (SJS), Randall Fee. This past season, Placer HS qualified both teams (boys and girls) to the CA state meet as their boys won the Division III race with the girls in 2nd behind Vista del Lago. The boys' victory was their 4th section championship in a row. The boys finished in 5th place at the CA state meet in their race and 2nd overall out of all Northern California teams, trailing only Bellarmine HS. Coach Fee has coached at Placer for 14 seasons, taking the helm of the team from Ron Hyatt, whose daughter Lindsay, won the CA state 800 title 4 years in a row. On a side note, Placer was established in 1897 which makes it one of the older public schools in California (117 years old!).

1) What was your own experience in sports? When did you start and what sports did you play? Proudest accomplishments?
My first experience in sports was little league baseball. I enjoyed playing baseball thru high school and finally at Oregon State University.

2) Who were the coaches that had the biggest impact on you and what important lessons did you learn from them? Who are the coaches that you lean on now for advice?
My first Little League Coach, Orville Taylor, had an impact on me. He demanded that we play hard and work on the fundamentals of baseball every game and every practice. Every practice had a purpose that was communicated to us. I try to do this with my teams so they know there is a plan in place.

Today I’m influenced by a couple of my fellow coaches who I believe run great programs and have for a long time. Bob King (Del Campo H.S.) always has the most disciplined teams that always stand out at a X-C Meet. Walt Lange from Jesuit H.S. in Sacramento prepares his teams for big meets like nobody else. Walt’s success in his career is legendary. More on a personal note I love doing battle with Peanut Harms (El Dorado H.S.) and Kevin Ostenberg (Del Oro H.S.). These two always compete hard with Placer on both the Girls and Boys teams. No matter what the outcome is at the end of the meet we always shake hands and can’t wait till we do battle again.

3) What led you into coaching? How long have you been at Placer HS? What else do you do besides coaching?
I have personally been running for 49 years. When I got married in the 80’s I was running marathons and ultra-marathons and racing every weekend. My profession was with P.G.&E. as a Lineman. When my children got older we started running as a family. Both my children, upon completion of high school received D-1 running scholarships. My son, Dustin, (Head track coach at Del Oro) graduated in 2002 and that Fall I was asked to become the Cross Country Coach at Placer. P.G.&E. was great about letting me start my day early so I could Coach in the afternoon. This will be my 14th year at Placer as the head Cross Country Coach.

4) What was that state of the team when you first started coaching at Placer HS? What are some of the advantages and challenges of coaching at that school?
I took over in 2002 after legendary Coach, Ron Hyatt, retired. The program was very strong and Coach Hyatt left me some very talented runners. Placer’s track is the finish line for the Western States 100 mile ultra run, which is held in June every year. We are so fortunate to have the Western States Trail in our backyard for out training runs. We never have to go far to run on hills and trails. Training in canyons does have it challenges. This year we ran into 5 or 6 rattlesnakes and two Mountain Lions.

5) Can you tell us a little about the progression of your seniors since they started with you?
We completed our 4-peat as Section Champions this year and two Runners were a part of all four teams. This group of seniors progressed every year they ran for Placer. Starting as freshman or sophomores running in the high 17’s to finishing their high school x-c career with pr’s at the state meet. Their times at State were from mid 15’s to very low 16’s.

6) What were the expectations of the team heading into the season? Who are the teams in your league and division in SJS that you feel have pushed your runners to better performances?
Our goal in 2013 was to 3-peat at Sections, which had never been done on the boys side at Placer. So naturally in 2014 the team was focused on that 4-peat. Our other goal was to improve our performance at the State meet with a top 10 finish. By far our main competition at the Section D-3 meet has been El Dorado and Del Oro high schools. As I mentioned earlier their coaches always prepare their teams well for the Sections meet.

7) Your boys' team won the SJS Division III race with 28 points. Where did you think they could finish at the state meet? How satisfying was it to finish 5th at the state meet?
In the State rankings they had us ranked 10th going into the State meet. I believe a turning point for us was winning the Clovis Invitational; it made us believe a top 5 placement was doable at the State meet. After the state meet race, they had us initially finishing 7th which we were very excited about. Then, the official results came out and we had actually finished in 5th place...boy, did the party begin then! What an honor it was to see those boys celebrate after all they had put into their running since June.

8) Your girls' team finished in 2nd place in SJS and also qualified for the state meet. What are the similarities and differences of coaching girls compared to boys? 
Right there with the boys 4-peat was the excitement of seeing this young girls team make it to the State meet. All the scorers at the State meet were freshmen or sophomores. We do a lot of team bonding during the season, carbo load dinners before every League Meet and a special dinner for those attending the Stanford Invitational. I believe these times together help to make for good chemistry on our team. We always have a lot of competition for our top 7 which makes for very few top runners ever missing practice. Competitive soccer on the girls side is challenging and something we face every year.

9) What does a typical training week look like for your runners? What changes as you get closer to the SJS meets and the state meet? Morning runs? Weights? What else do you think were keys to the success of your runners?
Our season starts in mid June and goes for 5 months so pacing our season is extremely important. We start the first part of our summer building our base mileage, then in the second half we start to build in hill workouts and long runs on the weekends. During early October, we quit the hill repeats and build more on long speed workouts (1000 meter repeats). Once our league championships are over we move to 600 meter repeats (on a flat grass course) and bring their mileage down. We also bring in Alumni for motivational talks. We do ice baths and use rollers after every hard run and I believe this really helps with a long season.

10) What do you feel have been some of the biggest changes for you as a coach and for the two sports (XC and TF) since you started coaching?
One of the biggest changes for me is having to be more flexible with the runner’s schedules. Students today are involved in more activities than when I first started coaching. Between band, club soccer, jobs, and AP classes my runners are maxed out and I want to work with them as much as possible.

11) Concerning the CA state XC meet, what changes do you think can take place which will make for a better meet?
I believe the CIF board needs to communicate with all-sections on what enrollment numbers we use in making out our divisional format. I believe when you get to the State level you should be on an even playing field. Currently the Sectional makeup for divisions is left up to each individual Section.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks for this opportunity to talk about my program.

Thank you for your time Randall! AJC

1 comment:

GHPADD said...

Good article for a special, and in my opinion, AWESOME coach. One thing not mentioned in the article is that Randall also has an evening "hill" run once a week during the summer that is open to all high school, and occasionally Jr High, college and open runners, to do trail-hill running together. With sometimes upwards of 50 runners showing up, Randall has always provided ice-cold watermelon at the end of the run that sparks social friendships between the runners (coaches also come out and run the trails). Giving sacrificially of his time, treasures and talents for all of the runners in the area, not just his team, puts him at the top of my list of respect. Thank you for honoring Randall with this interview.

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