Thursday, November 13, 2008

Catching up with Harker coach Blossom Marimpietri...

Today we chat with Harker coach Blossom Marimpietri who in her first year as the cross country coach at Harker led her team to two varsity team titles (girls and boys). Harker was part of the new WBAL (West Bay Athletic League) this year which included the addition of Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo and Crystal Springs Uplands. This coming Saturday, her boys and girls teams will attempt to qualify for the state meet as they battle against the usual suspects in Division IV such as Carmel, Half Moon Bay and San Lorenzo Valley.

1) Tell us a little about your running background.
My first cross-country race was in the 10th grade and it was the first time I ever ran 3 miles (it hurt…a lot). I joined the team after persuasion from my soccer coach, but after my second race I knew it was the sport I was meant to do. That was at a public school in Los Angeles, but the following year my dad moved to Ventura County and I transferred to Oak Park High School. It was there where I began to take running seriously and helped the team win its first 2 state championships. I then came to the Bay Area for college where I ran for Santa Clara University. I was honorable mention All-West Coast Conference once. I recently joined the Impalas and am excited to be competitive again once I get healthy.

2) How did you get involved in coaching? Do you or have you coached other sports? What else do you do besides coaching?
This is my first season of coaching ever. I found out about the job through my friend (and assistant coach), Lauren Swigart In the back of my mind I had been thinking about coaching for years so when the opportunity came along I was excited to take it. I am also currently working full-time as a counselor for adolescents with eating disorders.

3) As a coach, who would you consider to be your coaching mentors?
Definitely my high school coach, Kevin Smith, and my college coach, Tom Service. Every year Coach Smith has over a hundred kids on the team and leads an amazingly organized, challenging, and fun program to success. Tom is one of the most caring coaches I’ve ever had and was basically my father while I was away at college. Right after I got the job at Harker I went back to Los Angeles for my sister’s wedding. While I was there I met with Coach Smith at Starbucks and typed notes for over 3 hours as he told me everything he knew about coaching. I’m sure we could have sat there longer, too, but I needed to start my drive home because it was getting late! Throughout the season I have talked to both of them for advice and opinions. My high school and collegiate running experiences were some of the most formative of my life and I know it will take years for me to become the kind of coach they are. They have taught me so much about running, life, and myself; I am fortunate to have had them to learn from.

4) How long have you been coaching at Harker?
This is my first season!

5) What was the state of the team when you started coaching at Harker?
By the time I was cleared to work with the kids it was very late in the summer. Only a handful of kids did any sort of summer running and when I held optional summer practice only 5-7 would show up. However, the previous coach did a great job with the team and I was lucky to arrive to positive, “coachable,” and team-oriented athletes. They were coming off a pretty good season last year and were motivated to do well again.

6) How big is your team this year and what do you do to attract runners to your team?

We have 43 runners this year. Honestly, I’m pretty lucky to have that big of a roster since I’m so new to the school. I think we are lucky because Harker has a middle school XC team and the coach runs a great program which feeds into ours. They hosted 2 middle school races this year, so we had some of our athletes volunteer at them. I definitely have ideas to increase the roster size for next year, though!!

7) What are your expectations for your runners during the summer?
I didn’t get a hold of them in time! We are very pleased with how the season is going, but I know we could do even better with more summer training. Unfortunately, as I mentioned already, I could not start working with the kids until very soon before the start of school. I’m already talking to them about next summer, though, and I think most are excited to put in a good base. I plan on having a structured summer with an attendance policy…mileage will depend on experience. I am trying to emphasize that a good summer is the backbone of a successful season.

8) This was the first year for the newly formed WBAL (West Bay AthleticLeague). How does this league differ from the past league you were involved in the past?
Well, I did my homework and looked up the WBAL and PSAL results from the past years, which is what Harker used to be in. I think the new WBAL is definitely more competitive, which is good because it raises everyone’s standards. The league was especially deep on the girl’s side this year. I think a league with 12 girls teams is huge.

9) Looking back at your seasons at Harker, could you identify an athlete or two that really stand out in helping the team become what it is today?
Prior to meeting with any of our athletes, my fellow coaches, our AD, and I met to talk about the season. One name that kept coming up was Sam Levine. “Oh, Sam will do that. Sam always takes care of this. Don’t worry, Sam does it.” All I could think was, “who is this kid?!?” But as soon as I met him, his leadership was evident. As one of our captains, he has led by example as well as verbally. He has made sure to keep up team traditions and keep his teammates in line and motivated. He also just won the league title so he has left his mark on Harker XC in many ways. He is leaving some big shoes to fill when he goes to college next year.

On the girl’s side, Elena Madan stands out. Like Sam, she has put in the work the past few years and has led by example. She is committed to the team and all of her teammates recognize her dedication to and respect for the sport. She has raised the bar and the expectations for the ladies, while being a fair and considerate captain to everyone. She was on the team as an individual CCS qualifier 3 years ago and now is hoping to go with her teammates to state. Next year, the team will look to Adam Perelman and Tara Hansen.

10) Who is going to be your biggest competition for your team in CCS this Saturday in the girls and boys races?
It’s going to be fun. On the boy’s side, I expect we’ll be competing with teams like Scotts Valley, Harbor, and Stevenson. For the girls, we hope to be competing with Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and SLV.

11) What advice would you give new cross country coaches if they are just starting out with a new school and team?
Oooh. Tailor your approach to meet where the team is currently at and then gradually work it towards your expectations and goals. Have a very detailed attendance policy and always stick to it. Order team t-shirts early. The Stanford Invitational fills up really quickly! Remember how young a 9th grader is. On that note, don’t forget how many kids will be totally new to running or sports in general; don’t forget to teach the importance of proper running attire (running shoes, athletic shorts, sports bras, t-shirts), the necessity for hydration, the expectations for stretching and core work. Set goals early in the season and revisit them midway through. Ask the kids for feedback – we did midseason evaluations and got great, constructive comments from many of our athletes. Every time you think of a way you can improve something for next year, jot it down immediately. Explain why you do what you do…and be prepared to repeat yourself many times.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks and good luck to everyone in the postseason!

Thank you very much for your time Blossom!

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