Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sawyer Camp Trail One-day Closure on September 1st

For those of you that run at Sawyer Camp Trail...

Sawyer Camp Trail will be closed all day on Thursday, September 1st. The entire 6-mile trail will be closed as construction crews work on the water pipeline adjacent to the trail. The trail reopens on Friday.

The work is part of the Crystal Springs/San Andreas Transmission System Upgrade that continues through 2013. For more information: visit; Follow on Twitter: @SawyerCampTrail; or call the 24-hour line (866) 973-1476.

Why Usain Bolt Is So Fast

Well he isn't too fast when he false starts but check out the article at this link:

Monday, August 29, 2011

9th Annual Dipsea Hike/Run Lite on Saturday, September 17th, 2011

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                      Contact: Janice Barlow
Aug 19, 2011                                                                                                                                        Executive Director
                                                                                                                                                                Zero Breast Cancer
9th Annual Dipsea Hike/Run Lite on Saturday, September 17th, 2011                               415-507-1949
Sponsored by Zero Breast Cancer                                                                                                415-507-1645 (fax)
10-year old Reilly Johnson, the youngest person ever to win the Dipsea                 
Trail Race, to support Dipsea Hike/Run Lite as honored lead runner       

(San Rafael, Calif.) – Zero Breast Cancer, a San Rafael-based nonprofit organization focused on research, prevention and education has announced that Mill Valley student Reilly Johnson – who at 8 years old was the youngest person to ever win the grueling Dipsea Trail Race last year, will be the honored lead runner for the 9th annual Dipsea Hike/Run Lite on the Dipsea Trail, Mt. Tamalpais, Mill Valley, California on Saturday, September 17, 2011.

Johnson’s participation is intended to highlight the importance of physical activity for young girls and women in improving their health throughout their lives, including reducing their later risk of developing breast cancer.

About Reilly Johnson
Reilly was born on July 7, 2001, and lives in Tamalpais Valley.  She will be attending Mill Valley Middle School this fall.   Reilly first ran the Dipsea in 2008 at age 6 in the open Runner section.  Her father, Hal, forfeited his Invitational status that year to run with her and shepherd her through the shortcuts.  Her first year, Reilly managed to qualify for the Invitational section.  The following year, reinstated as an Invitational runner, Hal informed Reilly that she was going to be on her own.  Learning the trail and all the shortcuts so that she could demonstrate to her father on a practice run that she could run the whole thing on her own was the extent of her training.  She managed to take 10 minutes off of her time from the year before, finishing 199th overall and preserving her Invitational status in 2009. Beyond hiking and running the course a couple of time with her parents, up to this point Reilly had never formally trained for the Dipsea. In  early January 2010, Reilly informed her parents that she actually wanted to train for the Dipsea this time.  Having done a report on the Dipsea in third grade, she knew that this would be the last year that she would have a 25 minute head start.  Her parents thought she might improve her time by another 10 minutes just by virtue of being a year older.  Reilly did not want to take any chances.  More importantly, she really wanted to see if she could beat her dad and – maybe, just maybe – secure a Black Shirt.  With the support of her parents, starting in mid-January, Reilly started running weekly.  She gradually ramped up the intensity and duration of her informal training.  It paid off.  She won, narrowly edging out Dipsea legend Melody-Ann Schulz, and thus became the youngest runner ever to win the Dipsea, on the 100th running of the race no less. In addition to hiking and trail running on and around Mt Tam with her parents, Reilly plays competitive soccer, enjoys skiing and hiking in the mountains of Colorado, where her family spends winter and summer breaks, is an avid reader, and relishes just being a kid and playing with friends.

What is the Dipsea Hike/Run Lite?
The Dipsea Hike/Run Lite is a community event that raises funds to benefit Zero Breast Cancer – while also raising awareness about the benefits of physical activity in reducing the risk of breast cancer. It is a noncompetitive, all-ages event that takes place on a 6-mile course, including the famous Dipsea steps. Check-in is at 8:00 AM, with a 9:00 AM start. There will be 2 aid stations along the way staffed by trained first responders; members of the Tamalpa Running Club will be the trail monitors. After completing the course, Hike/Run participants will enjoy a free lunch, mini-massages and jazz at Old Mill Park. Prizes will be awarded recognizing first runners & hikers in, top fundraisers and other categories.

Trail Details:
Hikers and runners begin at Old Mill Park in Mill Valley, climb the Dipsea steps up to the celebrated views of Mount Tamalpais, cross the Panoramic Highway and follow the Sun Trail to the Tourist Club (aid station #1). Then they take the Redwood Trail to the Panoramic Trail, where it meets with Alice Eastwood.  There is a small set of steps at Alice Eastwood that takes hikers and runners up to Panoramic Highway and the Mountain Home Inn (aid station #2).  From there, participants take Edgewood to the Tenderfoot Trail, to the Cypress Trail and return to the Dipsea steps, where the loop ends at Old Mill Park. With State parks on the chopping block, this event is a wonderful opportunity to appreciate this outstanding natural resource.

Registration – Individuals and teams:
Individual and group participants can register online at or by calling 415-507-1949.  For individuals, registration is $35. Student registration is $20. Children 10 and under are free. Team fundraising goals are based on the number of people participating; there is no fee for team members if the group meets their goal.

Why we do this event:
ZBC’s version of the Dipsea Hike/Run was established in 2002 by Annie Fox, a former ZBC Board member, Marin County employee, avid trail runner and breast cancer awareness advocate who died of breast cancer at the age of 35. In her last days, she focused her energy on bringing the first Dipsea Hike/Run Lite to fruition.  Zero Breast Cancer’s Dipsea Hike/Run Lite continues to be held annually in her honor. Fox believed - and extensive research has demonstrated - that physical activity is one of the most important ways we can reduce breast cancer risk.

This year ZBC will also honor Jerry Leith, who died recently of cancer.  After Annie’s death, Jerry Leith, also an avid runner, carried on her inspiration and assumed a leadership role in coordinating the Dipsea Hike/Run Lite for the past eight years.  The event has raised over $200,000 in support of ZBC’s research and educational programs focused on breast cancer prevention.

Proceeds from the 9th annual Dipsea Hike/Run Lite benefit the research, education and community outreach programs of Zero Breast Cancer. The Dipsea Hike/Run Lite gives folks an opportunity to raise funds to help Zero Breast Cancer’s work to eliminate breast cancer while doing something tangible and effective to reduce their personal (or their loved ones’) risk at the same time.

Zero Breast Cancer is a Marin County nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the causes of breast cancer through community participation in the research process. It focuses on identifying environmental factors and the role they play in the development of breast cancer at all stages of life and across generations. Zero Breast Cancer is the only community-based organization dedicated to finding out why women in Marin and the Bay Area are at higher risk for breast cancer. In partnership with academic and research institutions ZBC has brought several million in research dollars to fund Bay Area breast cancer researchers. Zero Breast Cancer is also the only community-based organization with a main focus on prevention of Breast Cancer through research and education. Their goal is the elimination of the disease. Visit                                         

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stamps Mallon wins Santa Rosa Marathon


You can check out some local league cross country previews at at the following link:

Included are several audio interviews with coaches in the following leagues:


Check it out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ryan and Sara Hall come to Santa Rosa

Heart and Sole is pleased to announce that World Class Distance/Middle Distance Runners Ryan and Sara Hall will be here in Santa Rosa tomorrow morning. Sara was a prep National Champ for Montgomery HS, and (Olympian) Ryan is the American Record-Holder for the Half-Marathon. They will be discussing their charity to fight poverty, the Hall Steps Foundation.
Full info can be found here:

-Alex Wolf-Root

2011 Stanford Invitational information

HS Information:

Entry Password request link:

Course Map:

If you are planning on taking your team to the Stanford Invitational this year, I would recommend you sign up now.  There are limited spots available in all divisions.

Local digest: Kennedy-Richmond wide receiver Kenneth Walker III commits to Cal

Friday, August 26, 2011

DyeStatCal boys' state pre-season rankings

The following rankings can be found on the DyeStatCal (ESPN Rise) website and compiled by Rich Gonzalez. 
Division I
Division II
Division III
Division IV
Division V

Who are the top teams in Northern California overall?  Who are the top 10 runners?  Are there teams and/or individuals missing from the above rankings?  Who is fired up for their first race?

Alameda HS Boys X-C Prepares for 2011 Season

Monday, August 22, 2011

Johnny Kelley

The following note was passed along to me by former Palo Alto HS coach, Jeff Billing:

Dear friends - I wanted to share with you the obituary of a running legend who shaped my life in many many ways. Many of you know that Kelley lived a mile down the road from my parent's home in Mystic, that his home is the starting place of the January 1st tradition of running & jumping in the ocean I've done every year since I was 12, and that the road race I run the first Saturday of every August is named after him. Him and his wife Jessie were like grandparents to me. I thought you might find meaning in the words written by my uncle Amby. May we all live as long and as meaningful a life as John J Kelley.

I hope you are all well,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A tribute to Coach Parks: the passing of a legend

Longtime M-A football and wrestling coach died Friday at 77:

Coach Parks was a longtime fixture on the peninsula at Menlo Atherton HS as well as a conditioning coach for the SF 49ers during their highly successful era (yes, the 49ers were a highly successful organization at one time kids).  I am not sure when he started this event but every year on his birthday, he would run a mile for each year of his age.  Rest in peace coach.

Running: 'We want to do better'

From the Hollister Free Lance:

Editors notes:  Hollister finished in 4th place last year in CCS Division I behind Carlmont, Gunn and Palo Alto.  Vanessa Estrada finished in 4th place as an individual behind Carlmont's Jessie Petersen and Gunn's Robinson sisters (Erin and Sarah) and qualified to the state meet.

In Josh Small's pre-season rankings, he has Hollister ranked 2nd behind Carlmont:

In Walt VanZant's Time Comparisons, Hollisted is slated for 3rd place at the moment behind Carlmont and Gunn:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boulder Running Camps: Fundamentals of Running, Part III

Video is a little blurry at some points but still contains some very good information from Jay Johnson:

Website of the Month?

Do you have any nominations for Website of the Month?  I have had several of the best high school team websites in NorCal posted already above in the past?  What websites have I missed?  What other websites do you visit daily?

What other information would you like to see on this site?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2010-11 Most Outstanding Performers: Girls Sprints and Hurdles

Martinez resident headlines DVC Hall of Fame inductees

Kevin Searls
Searls was an All-Conference selection in cross country and an All-Nor-Cal selection in 1976-77. He was a distance track star at DVC in 1977-78 and won the conference relays 3,000-meter steeplechase in 1978. He transferred and graduated from Humboldt State University and was a two-time All-American in both cross country and track. Searls qualified for the NCAA Track and Field Championships both years at Humboldt in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. In recent years, Searls was the head cross country and track coach at Carondelet High School for eight years and his cross country teams won two NCS titles and he won the 1985NCS Track Championship. He was named 1985 NCS Coach of the Year and was an assistant cross country coach at DVC for 11 years and was head coach for one-year. He owns a local contractor business and has been the longtime president of Asics Aggie Running Club.

Found at the following link:

2011 Crystal Springs cross country course schedule

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Catching up with Del Campo runner, Jordon Rushing...

Today we chat with one of the fastest returning track and field/xc runners in the state of California, Del Campo's Jordon Rushing.  During the last track and field season, Jordon won the SJS Masters meet in the 1600m. with a then PR of 4:17.87.  He followed that effort at the state meet trials by advancing to the finals as the last qualifier by running 4:13.05.  In one of the deepest 1600m. races in state history, Jordon set another pr with his 4:12.64 to finish in 10th place and will be the fourth fastest returner from that race next season.  During cross country season, Jordon finished in 2nd place at the SJS Division II race behind El Camino's Chris Kigar.  Along with seniors Robert Pflasterer and Jack Nevins, Jordon helped the always tough Del Campo xc squad finish in 4th place in the state Division II race.

1.  What sports did you do before high school?  How did you get started with running?
I played recreational soccer from the age of 4 until I was 11.  When I started middle school I decided I wanted to try something new.  All my brothers had run for Del Campo High School and I wanted to follow in their foot steps and continue the family tradition. My Brother Jeremy's team was 5th in CIF D2 in 2001, my brother Joel ran JV his Sr. year and my brother Jesse was a team captain for the 2006 D3 CIF runner up. I have enjoyed running ever since then.

2.  What do you remember about your freshman season in cross country?  Highlights?

I remember my first day of practice the most.  Within the first two minutes of my first practice, an upper classman threw a tennis ball and hit me in the middle of my back, leaving a giant welt. All I could think about during the rest of the run was to stay with him and show him that as a freshman I could really run. We eventually became really good friends.  My freshman year highlight was winning the Capital Athletic League frosh/soph finals and being picked as an alternate on the State cross country team.

3.  Who were your mentors on the team at that time?

Dan Mitchell and Matt Case were always big mentors on the team beginning my freshman year and are my mentors to this day. I never imagined being as fast as Dan Mitchell who held the school records in the 1600m (4:15) and the 3200m (8:56). I broke Dan's record in the 1600m this year at the State meet, Dan made the trip to Fresno and gave me some pre-race advice and was one of the first to congratulate me after the race. 

4.  When did you first start to achieve success in either cross country and/or track and field?
When I started to run for Coach King my freshman year I became a successful runner almost immediately. I would say my breakout was halfway through my junior year at the Clovis Invitational. Ever since that time I have had the confidence to run with the top competitors in each race.

5.  What were some of your tougher workouts or runs that you remember from your freshman and sophomore seasons in either xc or track?

I would say the hardest was and still is the 5 x 1 mile intervals at pace, followed by 3 x 300s.  My freshman year I was just trying to survive the workouts, but now the goal is to make sure that they are sub. 5:00, and get the most out of every workout.

6.  Tell us a little about your coach Bob King and how he has help you develop as a runner.

Coach King has always preached self confidence and believing in my workouts.  He has always had the confidence in me even when I didn't perform up to my standards.  He knew what I was capable of and told me to stop thinking and just run. Coach King has coached for 43 years and has had many elite runners so when he tells us to focus on our goals and work hard everyday, we know he knows what he is doing.  

7.  Your team has a camp before the start of the school year.  What do you feel are the most important things that take place at the camp that help you guys during the season?

Our camp is about the importance of running as a team as much as an individual.  We have many DC alumni who participate and mentor the team.  Being at camp gives us the opportunity to build on, and improve our strength. We like to have a relaxed atmosphere but when it comes time to workout we try to stay focused.   

8.  What are some of your favorite traditions that take place during the season at Del Campo?

Some of the guys like getting together and going on night runs before travel days, and Friday morning food runs.

9.  Tell us a little about your track and field season last year and some of your highlights and personal records? 

Last year's track season was a really good year for me and my focus was to make it to the State meet in the 1600m. Coach King always has us training for the end of the year and not mid season meets so there are a few meets I had wished I had done better in, but peaking for Masters and State was all part of his planning. The highlights of my season were winning the 1600m at the SJS Masters in 4:17, breaking our school record for the 1600m at State trials in 4:13 then running 4:12.64 for 10th place in the finals.

10.  Favorite run?  Favorite xc workout?  Favorite xc course?  Favorite xc race?  Favorite competitor(s)?  Favorite track meet?  Favorite track race?  Favorite track workout?
Night runs and donut runs. 40 min out and 40 min back at pace. Willow Hills. The Woodbridge Classic. Chris Kiger, Riley Ruppenthal and former team mates Robert Pflasterer and Jack Nevins. The State trails/finals, it was a fantastic experience for me. 1600m. 8 x 800 at pace.

11.  How would you convince an incoming freshman at Del Campo HS to join your cross country team?
I tell them it is really a lot of fun. Like most sports it is tough at first, but if you apply yourself and just keep going it does get easier. There is a lot of satisfaction in training hard for a result and then achieving it.

12.  Anything else you would like to add.

I would like to thank you for this interview.  This is the first time I have ever been interviewed and I really had a good time doing it.  Thanks for your coverage of our sport you do a great job at it. I would also like to thank my assistant coaches, Sue Grinstead and Clay Lowrey for all their hard work and the time they spend with our team.
Jordon Rushing  DC~XC

Thank you very much for your time Jordon!  AJC

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Is the Fastest Human Ever Already Alive?

Track & Field and Cross Country participation UP!

Found at the Napa Valley Register and the following link:

High school sports participation in California is on the rise, according to the 2011 CIF Sports Participation Survey. Up by 2.9 percent since the previous survey in 2009, an additional 21,006 student-athletes are competing in California high school athletic programs; 757,733 boys and girls combined.
“The increased growth and interest in high school athletic participation is encouraging even during these hard economic times when some of our schools are forced to reduce their sports programs,” CIF Executive Director Marie M. Ishida said on the organization’s website. “Athletics is an integral part of the high school experience and as more student-athletes decide to compete, the CIF will continue to foster the best possible experiences for all participants.”
Collectively, track and field experienced the largest increase (9.8 percent) for both boys and girls for a combined 9,122 new participants. Additionally, cross country also registered notable growth (9.4 percent increase) from 2009 for a combined 4,564 total increase of boys and girls competing.
The CIF’s 1,517 member schools participated in the survey as part of the National Federation of State High School Associations nationwide survey that measures the number of students competing in sports in the country.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Job Opening

Mercy High School, San Francisco is looking for an assistant cross country coach for the upcoming season.

The Cross Country coach is expected to be knowledgable and passionate about the sport of running.  The coach will be professional, positive and motivational.  Ideally the candidate will have experiencing coaching high school cross country and/or a coaching certification from a nationally recognized organization ( USATF, RRCA, USTFCCCA ).  

Practice is 3:00-5:30 weekdays with a few longer days and Saturdays for meets.  Season will begin on August 19th and ends in early November.

Applicant must be CPR and First Aid certified, pass a TB test and complete a criminal background check.

Stipend available.

Please contact Head Coach Craig Benson at

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Boulder Running Camps: Fundamentals of Running, parts 1 and 2

From the Boulder Running Camp and Jay Johnson.  You can find these videos and other useful coaching information on Jay's blog at

The rest of his presentation will be posted shortly.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Petaluma teen paralyzed in Lake Tahoe diving accident dies in Highway 101 crash

2011 Bay Area Running Camp

Thanks to Margaret Gallagher and Spencer Allen from, you can check out some great shots at the link below from the recently completed Bay Area Running Camp at Woodside Priory School.  The youth camp (group pic to the left) was a big hit thanks to the fantastic running trails next to Priory, all the terrific councilors and speakers including local coaches Chuck Woolridge, Chris Puppione and Andy Chan.  The adult camp (group pic below) in the evening was also very well received thanks to the delicious dinners following the runs by French Laundry chef John Barone and another great group of speakers including 2008 Olympian Grant Robison.  

The dates of next year's camp will be announced shortly.  We look forward to another great week of running and learning next year.

The entire photo album from the camp can be found at the following link:

You can also find us on facebook at the following link:

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Magic of Maywood Park

If you haven't read this already, check out the following article from Running Times detailing the only school (Hammond High School) to field 3 (Rudy Chapa, Tim Keough and Carey Pinkowski) sub 9:00 2 milers during the same season:

Saturday, August 06, 2011

CCS All-Time Best Marks List, All Conditions

Thanks to Hank Lawson and as posted at

For the NCS list, check out the following thanks to Keith Conning (through 2010 season):

Are there similar type lists for SJS?  NS?  SF?  OAK?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Catching up with Redwood HS coach, Laura Schmitt...

Today we chat with former UC Berkeley runner and current Redwood HS coach (now retired), Laura Schmitt.  Many of you may know Laura in many capacities including runner, coach, and mom.  Laura's children all had outstanding high school careers include Jake who graduated from the University of Washington, Meagan who played Div. I. Volleyball at Cal and Caitlin who is currently attending and competing at UCLA.  Laura was a tremendous competitor in high school and eventually was inducted into both the Redwood HS and Marin Hall of Fame.  She is still competing and best of all, she is now joined on the Redwood HS coaching staff by her son Jake (photo to the right thanks to Frederick Larson and SF Chronicle).

1)  How did you get your start in sports as a youth?
My parents put both my brothers and my sister and I on the swim team as soon as I was able to swim.  I swam with my sibling year-round through my junior year at Redwood.  My first introduction to competitive sports was weekend swim meets.  I began running because I wanted to join my dad on his daily runs.  He was the only person in the neighborhood who went running back in those days and I just loved the feeling I got when we went running together.

2)  What sports did you compete in during high school and what were some of your highlights?
I was a swimmer until my Junior year at Redwood and had a really tough time giving it up for running.  I started running cross-country in my junior year and fell in love with the sport.  We had an incredible team and I am so fortunate to have been a part of it.  My coach Ray Jacques said that if we got top 3 at Northern California Championships, he would shave his beard...and he did.  One great track memory was running State Meet at Hughes Stadium and hurrying back to Redwood for my Senior Ball with my then-boyfriend (now husband)...we ate Togos sandwiches in the car and took a quick shower...every time I take my team to Hughes I think of that night. 

3)  Tell us a little about your college years, what sports did you compete in and what were some of your highlights there.
I competed for 4 years in cross-country and track and field at UC Berkeley.  There were so many incredible moments and memories that were created during those 4 years.  I have stayed close with all of my teammates.  Qualifying for Nationals was one of my favorite team memories.  Traveling across the Country to Pennsylvania with my closest friends and Coach, for a common goal brought us together and created a bond that still lasts today.

4)  What led you to transition to the coaching part of the sports of cross-country and track and field?  
It was clear to me that I wanted to coach after my first cross-country season at Redwood.  I wanted to connect with kids the way that my high school coaches connected with me.  Knowing that I wanted to coach and teach, I majored in psychology and got my teaching credential. When I started running at Berkeley my coach, Tony Sandoval, used to give us weekly workout printouts.  I started keeping them and had 4 years' worth when I started coaching.  I graduated from Cal in 1986 and started coaching at Redwood that Fall.  I was back coaching with my mentors and was calling Tony for advice. 

5)  Who are and have been your coaching mentors (past and current)?
Three men, Ray Jacques, Doug Basham, and Tony Sandoval, are the first coaches that I mention because they had an early and significant impact on my coaching development.  I am very close to all three and still coach with Doug "Flash" Basham.  Jacques taught me to run for the love of it and not for the extrinsic rewards.  Flash taught me to be a good human being.  And, the most knowledgeable, Tony Sandoval, taught me how to teach the sport.  They set up the foundation for my coaching.

I'm very fortunate to have a son, Jake, who ran for Greg Metcalf and is currently coached by Magdalena Boulet. I absolutely love Greg's energy and enthusiasm that he brings to his team and I have stolen more than a few great workouts.  Magdalena is a brilliant coach who does everything spot on.  She teaches the importance of balance. She models and coaches how to train at the highest level while living a well-rounded life.

6)  What were some of the challenges that you faced as a young coach and what did you learn from that experience?  
I was extremely lucky that I started with Jacques and Flash because they taught me about the love of both coaching and running.  I didn't really have any challenges.  One might think that coaching Varsity boys would be tough but it really wasn't.  I love coaching boys!

7)  You coached your son Jake and your daughter Caitlin during their high school careers at Redwood High School.  Tell us a little about those experiences.  
Well, I also got to coach our other daughter, Meagan, but she played volleyball in college (Cal).   Jake, Meagan, and Caitlin are three very different athletes with very different personalities.  I absolutely loved coaching each and every one of them.  Like all my athletes, I allowed my kids to set their own goals and celebrated their successes as their own.  I can't put into words how fortunate I am to have had this experience.  We have a closeness that is indescribable.  We have created memories that we will have forever.  I can't wait to coach my grandkids.

8)  From your experience as a competitor and coach in high school, what do you feel are the key components that are necessary to succeed in high school running?  Without a doubt, the most important component is teaching the love of the sport.  If we, as high school coaches, teach this, we will have happy, more successful runners.  Additionally, I believe everyone needs to be kind to each other and be at practice every day, regardless of ability, prepared to run.  Being on a team is a privilege.  

9)  You are still an active competitor.  How much running do you do yourself and in what events do you compete in currently?  
I run every day and double a few times per week.  Typically I run a quality day on Tuesday and Friday and long on Wednesday and Sunday.  I really base my racing around my kids and the team’s schedules.  Meagan just graduated from Cal so I'll have more open weekends to race.  World's Masters was in Sacramento at Hughes Stadium in July.  I ran the 5,000 and the 10,000.  Jake is my coach and I am going with him to run Falmouth on August 14th.

10)  From your experience as an athlete and now as a parent and coach of current and past collegiate athletes, what would be your advice for prospective college athletes?I have several athletes contacting coaches right now and my advice is to reach up to your highest goal. I really feel that if you can stretch out of your comfort zone you'll rise to the next level.  This applies to all facets of your life.  I also advise kids, when selecting a college to think about what they will contribute to the team rather than what the school is going to give them.  I believe this makes for a more positive relationship.  I also let them know that Freshman year is hard, no matter who you are, and it should be.

11)  Your son Jake started coaching with you last year.  What has he added to the team and what have you learned from him now that he is coaching with you?  
Jake has had an immediate impact on our team.  I think one of the most important things that he has taught our kids is that he really cares about them and their well-being.  He takes the time to talk to every athlete and answer every question.  Our kids feel safe with him.  He has also shown them that loving something isn't always easy.  Running is hard, being consistent is hard, but the payoff is worth it.

I started learning from Jake long before he started coaching with me.  He has taught me to pursue what you love and take risks.  He knows so much about the sport.  I love dissecting workouts, meets, and seasons with him.

12)  Anything else you would like to add.  
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that running, which started out as a fun thing to do with my dad, would have had such an impact on my life.  I met my husband at a track meet in high school, my closest friends and mentors are all from the track world, I get to coach at Redwood and I have the amazing fortune of running and coaching with my kids.  I love running.

Thank you very much for your time, Laura!  AJC

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Catching up with De La Salle coach, John Pelster...

Today we chat with De La Salle HS coach John Pelster who continues to lead one of the best cross country programs in Northern California.  John has been part of the DLS program for many years (also an alumni of the school) as you will see below including the last 5 years as head coach.   During those 5 years, DLS has finished in the top 3 in either Division I or II including 2 NCS titles (2008 and 2010).  Last year's section title in Division I was particularly impressive considering they defeated one of the best teams in NCS (College Park) who had defeated them numerous times earlier in the season.  In what turned into a virtual dual meet at the section meet, DLS defeated CP 34 to 45 to land their school's 13th section title.

1) What sports did you play during your youth?
I played several years worth of baseball and basketball as a kid as part of organized sports leagues. I was always playing some sport or another as a kid with my friends. When we would hang out together, we did sports.  That was one of the great things about growing up before video games conquered America.

2) What about high school and college? Highlights?
In high school I participated in basketball, cross country, and track. I played basketball my freshman year and was cut from the JV team. I ran cross country as a junior and senior. In track, I did the high jump for three season sand ran distance one season. I was a pretty mediocre athlete in high school.

I knew I wasn’t fast enough to run in college, so I looked into cycling and joined the cycling club at UCSB. My junior year, we won the regional and national championships in the team time trial. My senior year I qualified for nationals as an individual but crashed in a training race the day before we were supposed to leave. No nationals for me that year!

3) What led you to teaching and coaching?
At UCSB I minored in coaching because I thought it might be something that I’d be interested in pursuing at some point. I had no grand plans for a career in coaching, I just had a passion for athletics and it was a way to further that interest. After graduating from college, I started as an assistant cross country and track coach at DLS because I thought it would be fun to help out. That year, I also worked part-time in retail and in banking and that taught me I couldn’t make a career out of sales or finance. My personality wasn’t well suited to either of those things. In the spring of 2002, a buddy of mine told me that DLS was hiring an English teacher and I figured I’d apply for the job, not really expecting to get it. My experience as an educator was pretty limited. To my surprise, I got the job. Having my foot in the door with coaching probably helped. Being a DLS alumnus probably didn’t hurt either. 20 years later, I’m still around, so I must be doing something right.

4) Who were your mentors when you first started coaching?
Joe Stocking is a figure that I consider a mentor because he was my track and cross country coach in high school. Although I never had a chance to coach with him, I would like to think that the tone of the program is the same as it was when he was at DLS in the 70s and 80s. As much as anything it was that tone, that feeling of camaraderie, that got me into track and cross country. His influence on me and other coaches in the track
tradition at De La Salle is such that we still name our track invitational in his honor.

On a more direct level, I began my coaching career with Rico Balatti and he was a super coach—the biggest influence on my coaching without a doubt.  He had a great sense of how to motivate and train runners to succeed. I spent about eight years as his assistant.

In addition, although they might not count exactly as mentors, I would say that I’ve gotten a lot from reading books by certain authors. Jack Daniels’ book was an important one for me, as well as a couple of books by Matt Fitzgerald. Tim Noakes’ book Lore of Running is another that has been influential. The Science of Sport website gives me a lot of useful food for thought as well.

5) What did you learn from your first few years of coaching that helped you develop to the coach you are today?
I learned that coaching takes patience. Every year, there are unremarkable freshmen runners who can turn into solid varsity runners, but it takes time and dedication. Some of our best runners over the years have started their running careers in the bottom third of the freshman heap.

In addition, I try to connect to runners of all abilities on the team. I may spend a bit more time with the varsity runners, but I think it’s important for all the runners to know their coach is interested in them and the progress
they’re making through the season. It’s sometimes hard with 70 boys on the team, but I try.

6) How long have you been coaching at De La Salle HS? What sports have you coached Highlights?
This will be my 21st season coaching at DLS. The 2011 season will be my 6th as a head cross country coach. I’ve also coached track in two stints at the school for a total of about ten years. In track, I’ve coached all the jumps and the hurdles as well as the distance events.

The biggest highlights would have to be the 1991 and 1996 state championships in Cross Country. Tom Prindiville’s trip to the Foot Locker National Championships in 1995 was also a big highlight. All the NCS championships have been exciting as well. My first NCS title as a head coach was a particularly proud moment.

I’m also proud of the depth of the team. I take as much pleasure from victories by the frosh/soph and JV teams as I do from the varsity team.  Some of the best results I’ve had as a coach have been those times
when the team has swept (or nearly swept) an invitational or a league championship. That’s a powerful indicator as a coach that something good is going on.

There are a lot of subtle highlights too. For example, when a guy like Brendan Scanlon shows up as a 9th grader and doesn’t even break 14 minutes on an easy 2-mile course and runs 15:12 as a senior at Mt. SAC,
that’s an important highlight. There are things like that every year (maybe not quite that dramatic) that make coaching so much fun.

7) You are also a teacher at De La Salle. What do you teach and what are the high points for you in that part of your work?
I teach English at DLS. I’ve taught everything from freshmen to seniors. The high points of teaching are the moments when I can see that students are enjoying the literature we’re studying, or when they realize that they can bring their powers of analysis to bear on a text and make sense of it.  Another high point of teaching is when a student in class enjoys learning for its own sake and not for a grade or a college application. That sort of intrinsic motivation seems to be a bit more scarce now than when I began teaching.

The other thing that I like about teaching and coaching at DLS is that we genuinely try to educate the whole person, and athletics is one of the things that we use to accomplish that mission. Sure, the kids like sports for a variety of obvious reasons, and no one goes into a sport to learn life lessons, but I believe that we do a good job of using athletics as a means and not simply an end in itself.

8) You coach at a school that has achieved a lot of athletic success. What do you feel are the advantages of coaching at such a school?
This is a tough question because I think there is a common misconception about De La Salle. Most people probably think that it’s just a sports school and that’s all that we care about, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, there’s an expectation to succeed at DLS, but we want the boys at school to be successful men, not just successful athletes. The coaches are as concerned about the kids being good citizens as they about being good athletes.

On a sporting level though, the athletes at De La Salle are quite aware of the winning tradition of the school. That expectation to succeed I mentioned earlier translates into a certain level of motivation in training. There’s a combination of competition and support between members of various teams that pushes the kids to do their best. Moreover, because there is a tradition of success like at DLS, I think the runners want to run well to uphold the tradition that’s been established by athletes before them. There’s a sense that the kids don’t want to be the team that failed.

Again, the thing that I’d like to mention however is that the success of the teams at the school are the product of a process. Honestly, only a very small number of kids show up at DLS as star athletes, and everyone has to learn a lot about self-sacrifice and self-discipline on the way to becoming part of that winning tradition. It’s a cliché, I know, but at DLS the focus is absolutely on the team and not the individual.

9) What are your expectations from your runners during the summer before the season begins?
The most important thing for the runners to do is run! I don’t ask them to do very much in the way of structured workouts. And we’re not a high mileage team. In the summer, seniors average 50-60 miles per week, but the mileage we run per week fluctuates. Any “work” we get done is typically done in the form of hills. We try to visit a variety of locations for our summer runs and many of them have a significant vertical aspect to their elevation profile. I try to schedule in a pretty long run once per week from the middle of the summer to the end. I want sophomores and older to be able to run for an hour comfortably. Toward the end of the summer, I ask the boys to spend a mile or so per week at or near their 5k goal pace, just to remind their legs how to run faster than distance pace. In addition, each year I expect the kids to run more than the summer before, so there is a progressive increase in the workload over the course of four years.

10) As you start to put a season plan together, what do you feel are the components that are key to the success of your team?
There are mental and physical components to the success of any team.  First, I think that it’s important for each team and the members of the team to define their goals for the upcoming season. Sometimes that’s
something I help with, and sometimes they don’t need any help. Those goals are integral to a team’s success. The most successful teams we’ve had have also been good friends with one another; they stay in touch with one another in college and beyond. I think that those friendships are important to a team’s success because the kids aren’t just running for themselves in a race. Sometimes a runner can dig a little deeper when it’s for the team.

On a physical level, we take a pretty conventional approach to the arrangements of workouts during a season. We begin with slower, longer repeats and tend toward shorter, quicker repeats as the season progresses. That’s a bit oversimplified but generally true.

11) Besides changing the division cutoffs to make the field more level at the state meet, what is it going to take for teams from up north to consistently compete with the SS teams in the larger divisions?
One thing that Southern California has more of than we do are big clinics.  We have some in Northern California that are really good—the round table discussions Chris Puppione and you have established and Tim Hunter’s clinic at San Ramon Valley High School being two examples—but in Southern California, they have the whole LA84 series of clinics that help to disseminate good coaching knowledge to a large number of coaches who can then put that to use in their programs. Each program gets a little better and in order to be competitive and keep up, all the teams need to work a little harder and smarter. That pushes the bar higher and higher. We have some outstanding teams and coaches in Northern California, but maybe they’re spread out a little more. Tougher competition makes tougher, better athletes. In the last few years, DLS moved into the EBAL and that move has made us improve in order to be competitive in such a deep league.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Perhaps a little known fact I’d like to share. The Hawaiian word “imua” that shows up from time to time in cross country was first used locally at De La Salle. Ron Stazkow, the first track and cross country coach at De La Salle in the 60s and 70s was from Hawaii and he brought that term to the school.  It’s been a part of our cross country tradition for 40 years.

Thank you very much for your time John.  AJC

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

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