Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Catching up with Carlmont Coach Jeff Gilkey

Today, I am posting an interview with coach Jeff Gilkey. Jeff is in his 4th. year coaching at Carlmont HS and in that short span, his teams and inviduals have established themselves as some of the best in California. His boys and girls' teams are currently ranked 5th and 4th, respectively, in the latest Northern California rankings. Thank you to Jeff for taking the time to answer the following questions after he returned from the Pepperdine Invitational.

1) Your ran at Arroyo Grande HS. What was your running experience post HS? post College? today?

I actually ran at Arroyo HS in El Monte, CA. Tim O'Rourke was my coach, he is currently the HS Meet Director for the Mt. Sac Relays and Mt. Sac Cross Country Invitational, he also runs the AAF/LA84 clinics at Mt. Sac. We won the first CA State Meet in 1987. I finished 6th in the state in XC and ran 9:03/4:17 in track. I ran collegiately for Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly Pomona.

2) How did you get interested in coaching? Who are your coaching mentors?
I was interested in coaching probably from the time I started running. I helped Coach O'Rourke as a volunteer a couple of years but then moved to San Francisco for work. My main influence is Tim O'Rourke. I've also learned much from Jim Sackett at Cal Poly Pomona and Walfred Solorzano.

--> 3) How did you end up at Carlmont HS? How long have you been coaching at Carlmont? What is your occupation? I've lived in San Francisco since 1996 and really wanted to get into coaching - I finally decided to do it in April of 2004 and the next day the Carlmont job was posted on Dyestatcal. This is the beginning of my 4th XC season. I work for a non-profit organization in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. I have 2 great bosses, Tracy Brown and Winston Williams who allow me to get off each day at 1:30pm and work on Sundays which allows me to coach.

4) How was your first year experience with Carlmont? What was the transition like to you being the coach? Did you coach at any other schools or levels before Carlmont?
The first year at Carlmont was a learning experience. The team had finished 2nd in State the year before but graduated 5 of 7. That first year it was a huge upset for our boys to win the PAL championship. The girls finished 3rd in PAL and it was a great success. I'm a pretty intense coach so getting the kids to get used to me was difficult at first. The good thing was I had a very young team who hadn't run for anyone before.

5) Has there been a runner or runners that you can single out that raised the bar for Carlmont distance running?
There are 2 runners that changed everything for the program. Caitlin Roake, who graduated in 2006, only ran for one year but her influence on the team was immeasurable. Caitlin was the runner that did whatever I asked with no question and no one works harder than her. The other runner is Greg Surh. Greg was the first athlete to buy into my philosophy and he led the team from the beginning stages to some very successful achievements.

6) What do you attribute the success to for the Carlmont Cross Country teams under your guidance?
The kids willingness to work hard is the main reason we are good. I was part of a successful program in high school and I expected Carlmont Cross Country to be successful. It may not be "fun" at my practices, but I believe the fun is in working hard to achieve the goals you set for yourself.
7) You are familiar with the success Carlmont has had in the past under Loren Lansberry. Are the current runners aware of the past success of Carlmont HS?
I'm aware of Coach Lansberry in hearing and reading about his success at Carlmont. My runners are very aware of Carlmont's past. One of the first things Brad Surh asked me after he ran 4:10.42 in the mile was what the conversion to 1600 was because our school record in the 1600 was 4:09.40 by Steve Miller in 1970. Brad converted to 4:08.97 and his was the first individual distance school record not set in the 1970's.

8) It seems you have been picking your spots in terms of racing Brad Surh and Justine Fedronic. How is their season going so far in terms of their racing and training? Justine was injured at the end of track season. Is she completely healed?
Brad will be running at Stanford this weekend. The reason for the late start is because Brad's track season lasted a month longer than most runners. He did run our league meet and looked very controlled. I'm excited for him to meet some good competition. I have been taking things slow with Justine. She didn't come back until almost the end of July. She is running very well but unfortunately was sick on Monday and Tuesday of last week which affected her race at Pepperdine. Justine knows her most important races are in November.

9) What are your goals for this year's teams? How do you prepare your teams for the transition of running in CCS and then competing against some of the best teams in state at the State Meet?
The goals for the girls is to be one of the Top 3 teams in California. The boys goal is to be Top 5 in California. I try to have my kids travel and compete in the best races so they get used to the different competition around the State. California is a tough state and the kids better understand what it out there if they want to compete. We beat 4 NTN ranked squads from different regions (#4 NW, #5 NW, #5 NE, #8 SW) and ran much faster than the #5 ranked California NTN team and the girls were very disappointed with their races. I don't like them to be upset but I was also very proud of their attitudes because they know they can be better.
10) Have you seen the size of your team increasing following the success of your past teams?
On the boys side I have seen increasing numbers because of kids coming out after track and I also have 14 freshman boys this season. It is the opposite on the girls side. I have only 10 runners on my team and we have difficulty getting more girls to join.

11) How often does your team run on the Crystal Springs course during the season? Track workouts? Mileage wise, do you consider your team a low, medium or high mileage program?
We don't work out at Crystal Springs very much considering how close it is to Carlmont. I think a runner can psyche themselves out if they have a bad workout on a race course before they race. We haven't worked out as much on the track this season except for a few early workouts to understand pace. I have a few loops of varying distances in parks that the kids use for intervals. Mileage is based on the athlete. Mary Rhoades and the top boys run 60-70 miles per week while someone like Justine will top out at 35 miles per week.

12) If you can think of anything else that you would like to add.
Thanks again for all you do. I hope to talk with you soon.

Thank you Jeff. AJC

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