Monday, October 29, 2007

Catching up with Mt. View Coach Evan Smith

For those people that follow the national scene, Mt. View HS in Utah is synonymous with success including 3 national championships each in cross country and track and field. Over the past few seasons, our own Mt. View HS in California has emerged as one of the top cross country teams in their league, the Central Coast Section and Northern California. Below is an email interview I did with Mt. View coach Evan Smith before he took his team down to the Mt. SAC Invitational where the boys' team recorded the fastest team time in CCS running 82:00 while the girls recorded the 2nd fastest team time (behind Carlmont HS) running 98:14. With the majority of both teams being underclassmen, Mt. View HS is definitely a team to watch for this season and beyond.

1) Describe your background in running and how you got involved with the sport of Cross Country/Track and Field.

I started doing 5k races with my dad around the age of 12. I remember it was a big deal for me the first time I beat him. I snuck up on him and blew by him as fast as I could. I didn’t want him to be able to react. I have the hand-eye coordination of a fish, so I knew the ball sports were out for me. That left wrestling (my brother was a good wrestler) and cross country/track (my sister was a good runner). I chose running, probably because my sister’s team (Foothill HS in Orange County in the early 80s) was a very good team, and I wanted to be a part of that. Plus, there were no girls in wrestling.

2) What was your coaching experience before Mt. View HS? How long have you been coaching at Mt. View HS?
I started coaching at Arroyo Grande HS (near San Luis Obispo) in 1997. We had great coaches there, who were completely dedicated to the kids doing well, and really knew what they were doing. I learned a lot from those coaches. After 4 years there, I spent a year teaching in Germany (I teach math), and then landed the job at Mt. View. I’ve been at Mt. View for 6 years. The first 4 years Samantha Read was the head coach. She is also a very knowledgeable and caring coach that I have learned a ton from. She moved back to Canada with her family, and since then Adriel Rodriguez and I have shared the coaching duties. He takes the lead during track, and I take the lead during cross country.

3) Who are the people that you consider as mentors for you that helped you become the coach you are today?
In chronological order: First, Jerry Whitaker, my coach at Foothill HS. Very relaxed demeanor, yet still got results from his kids. Lee Green and Zenon Babrij, my rowing coaches at UCLA. They taught me what commitment and hard work could really get you. Randy Warren, my cycling coach at Cal Poly, SLO. He taught me that you really need to know your sport to teach it to others. James Brown, Tom Tucker, Dave Johnson, Robert Budke, Myra Hirsch at Arroyo Grande HS. (see above). Samantha Read (see above). I go to clinics whenever I can … I’ve learned from the Davis, Arcadia, Rio Mesa, James Logan, etc. coaches. Joy Margerum. Ernie Lee at Gunn. Monica Townsend at Los Gatos. I try to pick up something from everyone. My athletes have also taught me a lot, without them realizing it.

4) How was the transition for you and the runners when you became head coach?
I was very worried about it, especially on the girls side, since they were going from a female coach to a male coach. But it went OK (I think). Our girls are still in contact with Sam, but Sam and I are always very much on the same page, so they end up hearing the same thing from her that they hear from me.

5) Describe your expectations for the runners on your team during the summer? Is there a team camp?
Well, nothing is mandatory until the Aug 13 date. But at the beginning of July, we start meeting as a team 4 days/week for long runs at Rancho San Antonio Park, and then they should do a 5th run on their own. Most kids go, because we do make cuts in August (I just can’t handle too many kids with only 2 coaches) and they know they have to be in shape for the August time trials. During the second week in August, we take 20 kids to Tahoe for high altitude running and team bonding. We camp. We try to do 70 miles that week.

6) How do you go about attracting students from your school to running Cross Country? How big is your team?
We have 74 kids this season. 48 boys and 26 girls. I haven’t really been actively recruiting too much. I feel like if you try to take a good athlete and turn them into a runner, it will only happen if their heart is in it. And if there heart is in it, they are coming out for the team on their own anyway. The school does give me a list of all of the 8th graders who are interested in cross country, so I contact them during the summer to make sure they know what’s going on. One of our feeder schools has a strong cross country program (Marion Honigman at Blach), which definitely helps.

7) Could you identify an athlete(s) that helped elevate Mt. View XC to the level it is today?
On the girls side, I would say it is senior Tania Morimoto. She has brought a completely different attitude to the team. She is a very hard worker, and all of the girls look up to her. On the boys side, Roger Huang and Robbie Reid, who are now freshman in college (Robbie is 4th man for Santa Clara University) really brought our boys team from nowhere to somewhere. Now that they are gone, Garrett Rowe and Neil Lingarkar have stepped in nicely to keep the boys headed in the right direction. Aaron Landrith is also seen as a leader that everyone listens to.

8) Describe the training area around Mt. View HS.
It takes about 2.5 miles to reach dirt, which is unfortunate. During the summer, we stay on dirt. But once school starts, we are on pavement quite a bit, which invariably leads to shinsplints. It also takes 1.5 miles to get to the nearest hill, but that acts as a good warmup when we do hill repeats. I wish we were in a hillier area, but things could be worse as well.

9) In regards to your training program, are there key workouts that consider important to your team's success?
This season I have been having the kids do more uptempo work for a longer period of time than pure speed work for a shorter duration, which I think is helping us. We have also been doing some stuff where we practice running downhill, as I believe that downhill running is crucial for success on a course like Crystal Springs or Mt. Sac. We have also incorporated a lot of core work into our program, thanks to Adriel, and I think it is making a huge difference. These kids are walking around with real 6-pacs, and I think it’s really helping them in the middle of the race.

10) Who are the toughest challengers in your league and in CCS Division II for your boys and girls teams?
We have a very strong league. On the boys side, Santa Clara, Gunn, Palo Alto and us all have a shot at winning league. It’s going to be a dogfight. On the girls side, Gunn is huge this year (as always). If we lose to Gunn, we have nothing to be ashamed of, as that is a quality team. For CCS, it’s the same 4 boys teams with the addition of Los Gatos, St. Francis and Serra. Any one of those 7 teams could win on Nov. 10. For the girls, Gunn, Los Gatos, St. Francis, Presentation and Leland are all quality teams.

11) Looking back at your coaching career, can you identify a coaching highlight?
Winning the State Title in track and field with Arroyo Grande in 2001 was definitely exciting. Our girls team getting to the State Meet in cross country in 2006 (a first for our school) was also huge. Right now is also very exciting. The girls are really putting it together, and the boys are exceeding everyone’s expectations.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thank you for everything you do for cross country. I appreciate seeing how we compare to the rest of NorCal. I also really appreciate all of the work that Hank Lawson (Lynbrook) and Walt Van Zant (Wilcox) do to keep everything up to date on And the guys on Dyestat as well, of course.

Thank you very much for your time Evan-AJC

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