Thursday, December 02, 2010

Catching up with San Rafael coach, Jason Jacobson...

Today we chat with San Rafael HS coach, Jason Jacobson.  At last Saturday's state meet, his San Rafael boys' team capped off a remarkable season by winning their school's first state cross country title in Division IV.  Going into the state final, San Rafael was ranked 8th in the final pre-state meet team rankings and managed to score one of the bigger upsets in all of the divisional races.  The week before the state meet, they won the highly competitive Division IV NCS final which was also the school's first section cross country title.  All four NCS schools finished in the top 10 at the state final.  While at Mills HS, Jason also ran for one of the best Northern California coaches who sadly passed away last year, Ed Parker.

1).  How did you get your start in distance running?
I grew up playing league soccer and baseball and running a bit in an after school elementary school running program.  In 4th grade, my mom signed me up with the Millbrae Lions Track Club led by Ed Parker.  Then I ran cross country and track and field in middle school, high school, and college.

2).  What were some of your highlights during high school in both cross
country and track and field?
The major highlights for me were the hard workouts on the track, loops around Mills High School, and hill repeats up the big hills in Millbrae. I enjoyed being part of the team and pushing myself really hard on the quality days the most.  Race wise, I loved the entire experience and challenge of the Crystal Springs cross country course, from the bus ride there with the team, to the walk up the hill, to setting up our team area, to the warm up, and actual race itself.

3)  Tell us a little about your high school coach Ed Parker and what he meant to you and your teammates.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been coached by Mr. Parker. In life, words like legend and hero are too often overused.  Mr. Parker embodied, symbolized, and lived those words to their ultimate intrinsic and extrinsic of meanings.  Mr. Parker was truly unique and one of a kind, wearing his trademark fisherman's hat, driving the old Orange VW Van (Mr. Track), wearing old Adidas style shoes, often his yellow slicker.  He was quiet and humble, extremely tough and knowledgeable, truthful and motivational, caring and giving, diminutive yet powerful.  While all of us had our own reasons for running and racing during high school, the one common thread is we always ran for Mr. Parker and never wanted to disappoint him.  He pushed us in our workouts, left it up to each athlete to find their way and meaning in running, made sure we raced not because we had to, but most importantly because we wanted to and allowed us the personal journey to find that motivation from within.  He made sure we wore our uniforms and school colors (the Yellow and Red) with pride, style, and grace.  He provided the infrastructure for all of us to be the best we could be with the only expectation that we go out and give our best.  One of his indelible marks was putting the responsibility on each of us to work hard and believe.

4)  What was your running experience in college?
I ran cross country and track and field for Southern Oregon University.  I was not a top notch high school runner by any stretch and ended up a middle of the pack collegiate runner, often our 4th to 6th guy in cross country.  I encourage everyone though to try to run in college because if I can do it, you can do it too.  Those are memories and experiences for a lifetime (from the team travel, to competing in stadiums, to super hard workouts, and more).  Those are a unique four years and you never get that opportunity again in life.  I was blessed with a great coach, teammates, and training area (in Ashland, Oregon).

5)  Tell us a little about your running now and what distances you participate in now.
I have run 18 marathons and competed in a host of running races over the years from 5Ks to marathons and have run in the Hood to Coast Relay the past 8 years or so.  I more enjoy the general running and training than anything else these days and have averaged 70 miles a week for the past 18 years.
6)  When and how did you decide to start coaching?
I started working with younger kids during summers in colleges when the athletes would be counselors in the summer sports camps.  In graduate school and after, I coached soccer for 5 years.  Then I heard about an opening at San Rafael High School for track & field some 12 years ago.  I interviewed on a Friday and got a call that night that they wanted me to be the head coach in track & field starting that Monday and the rest, I guess is history.  My mom was a coach so I guess it is in my genes. Running gave me so much in life and I really felt the responsibility to give back to others through coaching.  The rewards as a coach are infinitely better than the ones received as an athlete and the journey never gets old.
7)  Who are and have been your coaching mentors?
As per above, Mr. Parker had an incredible influence on me as a coach. Hans Voskes and Monty Cartwright, my collegiate coaches, were great mentors for me as well.
8)  Tell us a little about your cross country team this past season.
Wow, what a season and great group of kids, huh?  I have been extremely lucky to have a group of kids to coach with some amazing talent, dedication, determination, will, hard work ethic, and tremendous heart. This season was one of ups and downs due to some injuries along the way. We had a magical 3.5 week run though at the end, winning MCALs, NCS, and the State Meet.  The four seniors (Trevor Ehlenbach, Dylan Harris, Jack Killion, and Cameron Bronstein) led the way.  Despite some of the lows, everyone kept their faith and kept working hard.
9)  Tell us a little about your team's training.  What does a typical week look like for them?  Key workouts?
Typically, we have 2-3 major quality days per week, one being an interval type day and one being a hill repeat type day.  Depending on the week, we will either have a tempo type run or a race.  We do a series of "Silver Bullet" workouts towards the end of the season to fully prep everyone to compete at a high level.
10)  When did you first realize your team won the state meet and what was your reaction?
I watched all of my runners fly through the finish line and a parent told me how much they all PR'ed by.  So I was extremely pleased with their efforts.  After congratulating everyone, I made my way to the chaos of the results area truly hoping for a Top 5 and perhaps a Top 3 showing.  The team scoring took about 15 to 20 minutes and I honestly had  NO idea on placement.  I waited anxiously by the results area and asked a few people if anyone knew any team results.  I heard a few people say Harvard-Westlake was second and a school San Rafael won it.  I thought, no way, must be a mistake or another "S" team, as there were a few strong "S" teams there.  Then, it was confirmed and the results sheets were printed. I think I dropped to my knees in total shock at first.  Then ran to the parents and to find the boys to celebrate.
11)  This is your chance to publicize the San Rafael Twilight Relays.  Why should teams attend this meet?
The 11th Annual Twilight Relays will be Saturday, March 12, 2011 (  This is one of the best invites around.  We have all relay races run at night, under the lights!  We have heats for all runners and abilities and even coed relays as well.  This is always a great early season meet with a fun, festive, and competitive at the top end atmosphere.  We typically draw about 30-35 schools from all over the Bay Area.  I hope more schools attend and experience the meet this year!
12)  Anything else you would like to add.
To any student-athlete reading this, I would just say in life, set high dreams and aspirations for yourself, show up everyday, persevere through the toughest of times, stick together with your teammates and coaches, work your hardest every day to improve, give all of your heart and all of your soul, and BELIEVE.  When you do that, well, good, no great, things in life are truly possible.

Thank you for all the work you do on this site!  It is an invaluable 

Thank you very much for your time Jason!  AJC

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