Sunday, July 26, 2020

Catching up with Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson...

A throwback to my interview with Hank Lawson from 2008. Hank stepped down from coaching after 2009 and has been timing and continuing to gather results, photos, and videos for the Lynbrook Sports website. 
For those of you that visit the website, you are in for a treat as our next interview is with that websites' webmaster, Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Besides keeping all the CCS folks in the loop in terms of results, history and much more, Hank has an outstanding group of runners this year with his girls' ranked 4th in Division II and his boys are working their way up the rankings and could be a factor come CCS time. Hank is pictured to the left in 2004 sporting his high school uniform top.

1) How did you get your start in distance running?
Back in 8th grade, I was challenged to a 600 for a Milkshake. I won the shake and been running ever since (it cost the PE coach $.25 - a well spent quarter)

2) High school and college experiences? Highlights?
Still on the School Record boards at Gunn HS (far right in photo) and De Anza JC in the 4x1 mile. At San Diego State we were 8th in the NCAA XC Champs my Junior year (I was 7th man but was sick that weekend so I didn't get to race - although my name shows in the results for our 5th man forgot his race # so he had to use mine). Guinness Book of World Records for the Baby Buggy push. A team of 50 runners ran for 24 hrs pushing a Baby Buggy and we averaged 4:11 per mile (see below). Running Boston and being 2nd Californian.
Yes, 4:11 is correct but this is how we did it. We only ran a 220 (yd) at a time so it was very easy (for some that is) to run 31.35 avg for all of our 220's (since some guys were running faster than that). The way it worked was there were 5 teams of 10 runners. When it was your team's turn, each runner had to run 8 x 220 (resting while the other 9 ran their 220). So you got 4 1/2 minutes to rest between 220s. Then you got 2-3 hours of rest (sleep) while the other 4 teams ran their 220s. It's just that 4:11 per mile sounds more impressive (and the non-runner was able to relate to that mile time) then saying we ran 8x220 at 31.35 (which means nothing to the non-runner). Remember, we had to market this to the paper so they would cover the story. Funny thing is, we told the paper when we thought we would break the existing record so they showed up 5 minutes before that 'predicted' time - well, we were running so fast that we actually broke the record 45 minutes earlier so the paper missed the 'breaking' of the record and had to settle for just seeing the final record mark. The last 30 minutes, all teams were there and we just threw the order out the window and runners were hoping in to run a 220 when they felt recovered and ready to go (we were all getting our picture taken so lots of egos were getting satisfied).

3) You are still competing to this day. How much of your running is done with the team? on your own? What races do you compete in?
When I'm able to run with the team, I'd say 1/4th of my running is done with them. I can hang with the JV runners unless it's downhill, then I can hang with the Varsity.

4) What inspired you to get involved in coaching?
HS XC was a great experience for me and I wanted to give something back to my HS, so I went and coached at Gunn for 4 years. Then I wanted to be a head coach and when the job at Lynbrook came along, I took it.

5) How long have you been coaching at Lynbrook HS? Previous experiences in coaching? Coaching highlights?
Lynbrook from '94 to present. At Gunn from '88-'92. At Hewlett-Packard (I started the South Bay team) from '78-'87. I loved coaching the inexperienced runner when working at HP as a Programmer. Most had never run track, especially the women, and they were all eager to commit to running and to get better. HS'ers are the same, just younger. Sometimes it takes them a little longer to commit to the sport then adults but when they do they are just as excited about getting better and seeing how far they can go. Coaching Highlights... when I learn that someone I coached is now coaching as well, that's a kick!

6) Who do consider your coaching mentors?
Hal Daner (Gunn HS - he's the one that paid the quarter for that milkshake), Forrest Jamieson (Jr High coach, father of XC in the Bay Area - he was the creator of the National Postal races back in the '60s-'80s), Jim Linthecum (De Anza JC) - all great role models.

7) One of your other interests is acting on stage. How did you get involved in that? Any cross over between acting and coaching?
I was tall for my age so in 2nd grade I was given the part of a dancing pickle - been doing it ever since. With XC I have a captive audience so I am always on-stage - life is but a stage. I am very animated and I think that helps to loosen up the kids up as well and then when I compete and put on my 'game face' they see that as well and know there is a time to play and a time to race - and to take them both very seriously.

8) I, like many other people, visit your website ( religiously each day. How did the website get it's start?
In '96 I saw that Lynbrook had a web team and a server on campus that was run by kids. I became the mentor of the web team (I'm a programmer by trade) to try and make the site the place to go to for information on Lynbrook HS (not just sports). The XC and Track section grew the fastest and we were getting lots of visits which helped give the whole site more exposure, which in turn required more support and hardware (success breeds success), and then it just kept growing. It then became too big for itself and was requiring too much bandwidth and disc space (over 10gigs I think) so I needed to move it to another server (thank you DyeStat) which allowed me to keep and grow the history side of the site as well as the current year.

9) Where did you get most of the past results? Who have been your best sources?
Plato Yanicks, coach at Menlo-Atherton from '58-'88, has a garage full of results. One scrapbook for XC and one for Track for every year thru 1990, starting with 1947 (when he started coaching in the East Bay). These books are filled with results and newspaper clippings - an amazing resource. I'm slowly scanning and posting the pertinent data from these books (I'm up to 1963 right now). I also inherited what the old XC/Track coach at Lynbrook had (Verne Thornburg), although most of the track stuff had gotten tossed so I went to Gunn HS and went thru Daner's files. Lots of coaches have given me access to their files which I then scan and then give back the hardcopy as well as a disc with the information - any other takers out there...?

10) Based on your experience and scanning of so many results in CCS, who would you pick as the five best runners (boys and girls)?
I'm assuming you mean 5 best all-time... BOYS- Mitch Kingery (San Carlos), Matt Guisto (San Mateo), Gordon MacMitchell (Gunn, he could've beat Kingery's time if he didn't have to sit out a year), Jesse Torres (Independence) and Chris Carey (Carlmont, he only ran the old Crystal Course). GIRLS - Katy McCandless (Castilleja), Lori Chapman (Gunderson), Roxanne Bier (Independence), Rebecca Chamberlain (Leigh), Alejandra Barrientos (SLV) - Tori Tyler (Gunn) had one fantastic time at Crystal which she won all by herself which would be considered a phenomenal performance given no one was even close to her that day.

11) This is your chance to make your plea for any past results (or anything else) that you would like to add to your site.
Coaches - please let me scan your files if you have any, let's not lose the history.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Please forgive my spelling (Albert, will you clean up for me?) and come see me in "Antigone In the Oval Office" playing at Theatre At San Pedro Square in downtown SJ - I play a Secret Service man protecting the President. I'm a nothing part but my daughter has the lead...

Thank you very much for your time with the interview and the website Hank! AJC


Anonymous said...

I'd sure love to have a shot of Hank finishing senior year PAL finals at Crystal Springs right behind the Church Lady.

Albert Caruana said...

I added two photos from the SPAL meet on Nov 9, 1972 of Hank before the race. Here are the top finishers from the varsity race that day.

1 Crowley, Steve 12 Gunn 14:44.0 NCR
2 Cattarin, Carl 12 Carl 14:46.0
3 Yeo, Matt 12 SC 14:53.0
4 Kingery, Mitch 10 SC 15:00.0
5 Geiken, Stacy 11 Cub 15:26.0
6 Emory, Jerry 10 Gunn 15:27.0
7 Shoop, Lee 12 SC 15:47.0
8 Carvey, Dana 12 Carl 16:00.0
9 Young, Ed 10 Carl 16:03.0
10 Lawson, Hank 12 Gunn 16:04.0

Hank said...

Dang, I could've sworn I beat Dana that day. Ok, look at the SPAL finals mile in track (1973), I out kicked Dana that day.

Menlo XC/Track Coach said...

This is so awesome! I bet Hank can beat a lot of those guys now! Hope all is well Hank!

Hank said...

At my age, the real challenge is getting to the start line. Thirty years ago, when I'd come home from a race my wife would ask, "Did you win?", now she asks, "Did you injure yourself?".

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