Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Catching up with North Monterey County Coach Ibarra...

Now that the cross country season is officially under way, I will start to once again post interviews with coaches and athletes. We'll begin today with the meet director of the highly successful Earlybird Invitational as well as the coach of equally successful, North Monterey Condors, Coach Ibarra.

1) Tell us a little about your running background (how you got started and your years competing).

I’ve been running ever since I can remember. My dad was a coach for many years at the junior, high school, and college level and my idols and best friends growing up were his athletes. My sand box was the long jump pit.

I competed fairly serious as a youngster and actually found some success in the jumps and sprints early on. I later saw the light and moved up to the middle and long distances. I placed 3rd in the Utah State Meet in the 800 in high school and went on to run for BYU for 3 years and for the University of Mobile for one year. My collegiate highlight was a 6th place at the nationals in the indoor 800.

I’m a Mexican national and I was planning on competing at the international level after college representing Mexico but my career was cut short with acute renal failures (my kidneys would shut down with extreme racing/training efforts).

2) How did you get interested in teaching and coaching?
I always wanted to follow my dad and my high school coach’s footsteps so it was an easy choice.

3) What schools did you coach at before North Monterey County and how many years have you been at NMC?
I coached at the two high schools I attended in Utah, Pleasant Grove & Provo High Schools, for a few years as I went through college. I first arrived in California in 1998 and I coached at San Benito High School in Hollister for 3 years. I’ve been here at North Monterey County since the fall of 2000 and I love it!

4) Who do you consider your coaching mentors?
There are several great coaches that have been a big influence on me including my college coaches Scott Simmons at the University of Mobile and Sherald James at BYU. Coach Simmons taught me how to think outside the traditional coaching box and make running progressive in nature. Coach James taught me how to put the runner first, not the running. Easily the two biggest mentors were my own father, Gustavo Ibarra Sr., and my high school coach Doug Owen. My father gave me the work ethic and the desire to be the best and my high school coach gave me the rest. My oldest son is named Owen.

5) Can you identify an athlete (s) that really bought into your program and helped you start your success as a coach?
There are several that really stand out.

At Provo High School I was able to work briefly with a trio of stars. Josh Rohatinski won many state titles, Footlocker West, and NCAA’s in cross and recently placed 5th at the Olympic Trials in the 10k. Nate Robison & Kassie Anderson were two others at Provo that also won some state titles and went on to NCAA All-American citations.

At San Benito High School there was Ben Morales that really helped take that team into some new territory for them by winning CCS and placing 5th at the Footlocker 2 mile.

Here at North Monterey County there have been many that have embraced what I’ve asked of them. Nathan Huerta was our first real elite kid that helped the team get into the elite ranks. He placed 2nd at the state meet in cross and was CCS champ. He runs for Cal Poly now. Keli Parker (UC Davis), Jose A. Garcia (Chico State), Danny Tapia (Hartnell), Jose E. Garcia (Sacramento State), Ivan Alfaro (Hartnell), and most recently Michael Machado (Cal Poly) are some that carried the team to new levels and have gone on to run in college.

6) Tell us a little about the Earlybird Invitational. How did it progress to the gigantic success it has become today?
Bruce White started the Earlybird 14 years ago as an alternative to a local meet that was lacking some things he thought a meet should have. He started with a modest 3 schools and with a great course at NMC the meet grew each year little by little.

When I was coaching at San Benito I brought my team to the Earlybird and enjoyed the meet. When I took over the program here at North Monterey I felt it was a great opportunity to develop the meet further. I began to contact coaches personally, sent out invitations, and added some touches to the meet to ensure that teams came back. Saturday we had 70 schools and 2,000 runners. It has been a great thing to watch develop.

7) How do you attract students to your programs (cross country and track and field) at NMC?
North Monterey County has always had a great tradition in cross country and track with about 20 league titles in each sport in only 27-28 years. The coaches that have been here are some of the best and have set the bar very high; it has forced me to jump! Keith Condon, Roger O’Sullivan, and Bruce White are legends in these parts.

I recruit heavily. Kids literally run from me in the halls, they know what I’m coming for. Most say no, the ones that say yes build the team. And, I have every runner recruit ONE kid, pretty simple. Our numbers have come down a tad but I’m not happy unless I can get 60-70 boys, at least.

8) Can you share with us some of your key workouts during cross country?
There are several. Today we did a hill workout that we love. Not fancy, just tough. Later we do our measured staple of 6x800’s in 5:00 cycles. The times in that workout over the years are fun to compare and some legends have been made. But, overall, it’s putting one foot in front of the other and I make sure to throw out what hasn’t worked in the past and I’m not afraid to try new things, even if we fail. Plus, we keep things fun. Ultimate Frisbee, Hounds and Hares, Soccer, Tag, etc. are all part of what we do.

9) How do you get kids motivated to run during the summer?
It’s getting harder to do… I have a running club, the Tri County Running Club, that is open to runners of all ages and several of my high school kids do that but for the most part I trust them to make a plan before summer, share that plan with me and their captains, and then get to work. The captains do much of the work over that time to check progress.

10) Looking back at your coaching career, can you identify a coaching highlight?
I guess coaching a team that was happy just to win league back in 2002 and then watching them develop some vision and work ethic to a couple of CCS titles, a 4th place at state in 2003, and a runner-up finish at state in 2004 by only 7 points has to be it.

Another highlight will probably develop this year. We graduated 6 of our top 7 from last year and are lining up a slew of untested 18-minute runners. We’ll see where we can take this group.

11) You are in charge of cross country in CA. Any suggestions how we can make this a better sport for our athletes?
Build a few more real cross country courses and let the kids wear spikes!

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thank you for your enthusiasm and for your contributions to this wonderful sport!!!!!

Coach Ibarra
North Monterey County HS

Thank you very much for your time Coach!

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