Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Catching up with Jesuit HS coach, Walt Lange...

Couple of follow up questions for Walt.

1) What are your thoughts on strength training for distance runners?
A lot of this is quite beneficial. I know some very good programs have morning weight training sessions. In the past we did a lot of drills with hurdles, medicine balls, etc. Nowadays our guys do hurdle drills and some ab stuff, mostly on their own after a running workout.

2) What about the 70s versus now? What is so different? What is the same?
It seems to me the 70s training placed the greatest emphasis on volume. Double sessions, 15-20 mile Sunday runs were imperative. A thousand miles in 3 months during the off-season. In the 80's and 90's the trend was to less volume. Seems there's more miles being run now than in the 80's and 90's.

3) What have we learned since then?
There was no state cross country meet in the 70's. Very little travel out of your immediate area or section for competition. That changed in the late 70's and into the 80's. There's a lot more thought into training programs with periodization, supplementary activities, and an awareness of what your competition is doing thanks to the internet.

Today we chat with one of the most successful Cross Country and Track and Field coaches in the state of California, Jesuit HS coach, Walt Lange. He has led the Mauraders to 9 state championships in Cross Country which ties them with McFarland for the most state championships. Walt has also had extraordinary success on the track with several state champions (1600-Mark Mastalir in '86 and Michael Stember in '95 and 3200-Erik Mastalir in '86, Paul Thomas in '87, David Welch in '89 and Matt Farley in '93). Walt's team website ( has also been a great resource for many coaches as well.

1) What sports did you participate in during your youth?

Surprise! track & cross country. Cut from frosh baseball and went out for track.

2) How did you get started coaching cross country? What other sports have you coached?
As a college student in Los Angeles area, while training at a nearby high school I befriended the distance runners on the team. They were basically un-coached and I stepped in.

3) Who were your mentors when you first started coaching?
I got a lot of help from Bill Leeds at Crespi Carmelite and Dick Scully at South Torrance.

4) What was your first year at Jesuit? What was the state of the program when you first started? What subjects did you teach at the school?
I started in the 1970-71 school year. The program had some remarkable talent at that time but was running fairly low volume. We probably doubled the volume after that first year. In 1972 Mike Tully took the school 2 mile record down to 9:15 from somewhere in the 9:40's.

I taught mostly Social Sciences, primarily U.S. History for 30 years.

5) What athlete(s) can you identify at the beginning of your career at Jesuit that bought into your program and took Jesuit to a new level?
Already mentioned Mike Tulley. There were several others: Rich Kimball (transferred to De La Salle), Hugh Miller (2:43 marathon as a frosh), Rod Read (9:07 2 mile as a junior), Earl Lagomarsino (9:18 3200), and Dirk Feenstra (9:16 3200). These were the high volume years and these guys usually ran double sessions and the marathon was not an usual event to contest. Tom O'Neil set our still-standing school record in 1977 with a 2:24:32.

6) What are the advantages and disadvantages of the area that surrounds Jesuit HS in terms of training?
We're about 600 yards from the American River Parkway. Great dirt trails go for 12 miles in both directions. The disadvantage is a complete lack of hills.

7) What have been the major changes to the sport of cross country from when you first started coaching to now?
We now have girls cross country. The distance was raised from 2 miles to 5k. There are so many more sports and activities competing for the talent pool, it really is amazing. And most of those activities are year-round, discouraging a talented runner from even considering our
sport. Parental involvement--you now have to recruit the parent as well as the runner.

8) In what ways have you changed as a coach during that period of time?
Not much. Can't run anymore, so I bike it.

9) Your teams have won 9 state cross country championships. What do you feel have been the keys to winning those state championships?
It really helps to have the talent. We have had some enter Jesuit with a running background, but most of our top guys came to Jesuit not planning to be distance runners and went on to the highest levels. That has been very gratifying.

10) What technology do you use now that has made your coaching easier?
A lot of stuff--I'm a bit of a tech geek. Our latest stuff is use of things like flotrackr,, XCStats. I'm having fun twittering race videos from my iPhone during meets. We use a display
clock for most of our workouts. I put it in the back window of my car and from it every runner gets a time for his assigned run. All our runs are mapped (see our team website) and we have pace charts for every one of them. Pretty cool stuff.

11) What do you think can be done to improve the sport of cross country in California?
Chip timing and large scoreboards displaying scores and times as the races progress. We have 4 scoreboards on our campus, as most schools do, but none for cross country or track. At a cross country meet we wait 30 minutes to an hour (or go home and get the results in a few days) to view results on a single sheet of paper that hundreds of people are attempting to read at the same time. Try that in football and see what reaction you would get. I feel we are at the stage track was in when sprinters dug holes in the track for starting. When we get chip timing & display boards it will transform the meet experience for athletes and spectators.

12) What would be your advice for a new cross country coach just starting out?
It takes time to build a program. Go around the campus and "grip and grin"--get as many athletes as you can to come out. Plan on spending a LOT of time at it. Get good assistants (I have three who are exceptional). Have an understanding spouse.

For those of you that are interested in Walt's training, check out the two following links:
Mark Mastalir's '86 Track Training Log
Austin Ramos' '03 Track Training Log

Thank you very much for your time Walt! AJC

1 comment:

Jason J said...

Great! I have to say that throughout my time coaching at El Camino (about 5 minutes from Jesuit), Walt was one of the friendliest, upfront, no-nonsense coaches I met. He really provided a lot of help to me in understanding how to be a good coach. I definitely encourage people to visit the Jesuit track website; it's got tons of great stuff on it.

Jason Jimenez

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