Saturday, August 08, 2020

Catching up with former Bella Vista HS star, Harold Kuphaldt...

Bringing this interview back to the front that I had posted a few years ago.
Today we chat with former Bella Vista HS runner, Harold Kuphaldt (picture to the left courtesy of this BV Track).  He graduated from high school in 1982 with PRs of 4:05.54c (1600m.) and 8:51.99 (3200m.).  He won the Sac-Joaquin Section cross country individual championship in 1981 when it was one division and pre-state meet.  Bella Vista HS won the SJS team XC championship in 1980 and 1981.   He finished in 2nd place at the Kinney National Meet when all the best runners raced each other to determine a true national champion.  He was also a 2-time SJS champion in the 3200m. in 1981 and 1982.  In 1981 he followed his victory at the section meet with a 5th place at the CA state meet, running 8:54.78.   His senior year, Harold won the state 3200m. crown running his PR of 8:51.99 and outdistancing one of the legends in CA running, Camarillo HS runner, Eric Reynolds.  Harold continued his running career at the University of Oregon and ran for Olympic medalist, Bill Dellinger.  You can see some of his collegiate success below which included a sub 4-minute mile.  Harold has joined the coaching ranks at his old high school and will be inducted in the Sacramento Running Association Hall of Fame in January 25th.

1)  What sports did you play in your youth?  How did you get involved in running?
I did not do any other organized sports, other than running, and I didn't start running until I was 12 years old.  My sister Patty started running on the very first girls' cross country team at Bella Vista high school in the fall of 1976.  I knew I had some talent for running based on my performance in the presidential physical fitness six-minute run test in grade school, so, I decided to give it a try. I started training in January of 1977 with my sister and the girls at Bella Vista high school.

2)  When did you first realize that you were a pretty good runner?
My very first race was the California 10 (10-mile race) in Stockton California.   I believe that race is still run every year.  I was 4' 10" and 75 lbs and had been training for 8 days before the race.  I ended up beating my sister in the race and ran 69 minutes and some seconds.  Afterward, my sister's high school coach Ralph Blount told my mother that she should encourage me to keep running because he thought I had some talent.

3)  What were some of your high school highlights and proudest achievements in both XC and TF? 
Several accomplishments come to mind as my most memorable.  Topping the list would be:
1.  Winning the high school state 3200m title in California in 1982.
2.  Finishing second at the Kinney nationals (Now Footlocker nationals) in 1981.
3. Placing 6th in the Steeplechase in the 1984 NCAA Div I championships and helping my team win the NCAA team title in front of our home crowd.
4.  Running my first (and only) sub four-minute mile at the Twilight meet in Eugene, OR in 1987.  Not necessarily in that order.

4)  Tell us a little about your high school coach and how he helped you develop as a runner.  What did you learn from him that you carry on to this day?
I was blessed to have an excellent high school cross country and track coach by the name of Dan Greenwald.  He coached at least six or seven runners who made the All-Northern California teams for high school cross country.  I learned so much of the fundamentals of training distance runners from him including: periodization of the training cycle and how to peak for the big meets.  He had a knack for recognizing when I was having an off day in training and changing the workout in such a way that I could have some success.  I definitely try to do that in my coaching today.  He was, and is, a good friend even to this very day.  He always tried to make running fun and I definitely try to incorporate that into my training plans today.

5)  How did you end up choosing the University of Oregon?  Tell us a little about your college experience.  Highlights and proudest achievements?
When I was running in junior high school I ran for a club called the Roseville Gazelles. One or two of my teammates followed the University of Oregon program very closely. They would bring articles about Alberto Salazar and Rudy Chapa to meets and tell me how they wanted to run for the University of Oregon.  That planted the seeds for me that ultimately lead to my decision to attend the University of Oregon.  Of course, my visit to the University of Oregon and receiving a personal call from Alberto Salazar sealed the deal for me.

I absolutely loved my experience at the University of Oregon. It is everything that you would imagine it would be to run in a stadium where the fans are incredibly knowledgeable and love just distance runners.  The first time I put on a University of Oregon singlet I literally had chills running down my spine thinking about the legacy at U of O, of which I was now a part.  The friendships that I made on the track and cross-country teams at the University of Oregon I maintain to this day.  This past June I took my son Scotty to a University of Oregon track and field alumni reunion in Eugene while attending the NCAA championships in Eugene.  I was, once again, reminded of how cool it is to be part of the rich legacy that is the University of Oregon.  I was able to meet and introduce to my son Ashton Eaton, Andrew Wheating, Terry Williams, Dave Taylor, Jim Hill, Pat Tyson, and many many more including, of course, my coach Bill Dellinger.

As for the highlights of my running career at U of O, I already mentioned two big ones.  I would also add running in 6 NCAA championship meets (3 in Cross Country and 3 in track) and making All-American twice was pretty cool.  I am very proud to have won the "Emerald Award" as the outstanding senior scholar-athlete at the University of Oregon in 1987.  But honestly, my best memories are of the many hours of training together with my friends and fellow warriors on the track and trails around Eugene and pushing our bodies to the limits just to see what we were capable of doing.  Finally, I would say running in front of the Hayward Field crowd in Eugene is an experience I will never forget!

6)  Who was your coach at Oregon?  What did you learn from him?
My coach at the University of Oregon was Bill Dellinger. He was/is a legend in the track and field world. He is an Olympic Bronze medalist in the 5000m in Tokyo in 1964 and coach of so many legendary distance runners.  I don't think I would make Bill's top 30 list of all the great distance runners he has coached.

I learned a lot from Bill.  First and foremost, there is no substitute for hard work!  He would say "You can't do anything in a race that you haven't prepared yourself for in practice".  We would try to take the components of a race that we wanted to work on ... Such as surging in the middle of a race when you are already feeling tired ... and simulate them in practice ... Only make it even harder than a race.  The famous 30th avenue drill at Oregon is an example of this training.  I definitely try to incorporate this philosophy into my current training plans.  I remind the kids why we are doing the workout, and what the main goal is for the workout.  I often will relate the workout to real race situations.

Bill Dellinger was a big believer in tempo runs and I definitely bought it to that approach.  I think you can gain a great deal of fitness with minimal risk of injury by incorporating regular (almost weekly) tempo runs into your training schedule.

7)  What is your current occupation?  How long have you been doing that?
I am a physical therapist currently working with Interim home care which is a home health agency. I have been a physical therapist since 1988.

8)  How did you get involved in coaching?  What is your current position at Bella Vista HS?  What are some of your biggest thrills in coaching?
My friend and former high school track teammate Dave Unterholzner has been the head track coach at Bella Vista HS for many years.   Ever since I moved back to the Fair Oaks area in 1996 he has been trying to get me to come and help with the distance program.  At the time my boys were very young and I was traveling a lot for my job.  Despite my love for coaching and for distance running, I did not feel I could justify the time away from my family at that time.  Then, as my kids grew up and started to get into sports they gravitated towards soccer and baseball.   I began coaching both baseball and soccer to be involved with their activities. I loved coaching but, to be honest, I do not have the same passion for baseball and soccer as I do for running.  Then, when my oldest son Adam was a freshman at Bella Vista HS he surprised me by making the decision to start running cross country in the fall of 2008.  I decided to help out where I could.  My biggest frustration was seeing how small the distance program was at Bella Vista.  I think we only had about a dozen runners between both the boys and girls program in 2008.  Back in my days at Bella Vista and throughout the years that all my brothers and sisters ran at BV, the distance programs were strong on both girls and boys side.  It seemed to me that the program had taken a huge step backward.  In 2009 I agreed to help Brett Sargent (a teacher at Bella vista who had a son who was a good runner and a new freshman at BV)  take over the Boys cross country program.  I assisted Brett with track and cross country until last spring when Brett stepped down and I took over as the head of the boy's distance program.  This fall was my first season as the head boys cross country coach at Bella Vista.  I also helped to recruit Melanie Cleland to take over the girl's program in 2010.

My biggest thrills so far in coaching has been watching this program grow back into relevance again in the high school running scene.  This year I had 39 boys run cross country and we had about that many girls run this year as well.   That is approaching 80 athletes ... A long way from the 12 or so we had in 2008.  We are now competitive at all levels.  The Bella Vista boys cross country team made it to the State meet in 2010 and 2011 and just missed making it in both 2012 and 2013.  It was also really cool to coach the boys that broke one of my school records at BV HS (I shared with one of my brothers and two other boys) for the 4x1600m.

9)  What do you remember about your high school training?  Weekly mileage?  The distance of long run?  Workouts?
I wasn't very good at keeping training logs throughout my running career. As a coach now, I regret that.  I used to keep logs for short periods of time and then stop.  I have a few of these partial logs covering portions of my high school training.  Based on these partial logs and my recollections of my training I would say I ran between 50-60 miles per week in high school.  Lots of long intervals and hill repeats and very few, if any, tempo runs. My long runs were in the 10-12 mile range.  I would say my high school running career was characterized more by the quality of the work I did than the quantity.

10)  From your HS experience in the late 70s and early 80s to now, what do you say are the biggest differences that you see training wise? 
I will say today's coaches probably spend more time focused on running mechanics than the coaches in the 60's, 70's an early 80's.  Also, we use more dynamic warm-ups and active stretches, rather than static stretches in our warm-up routines.  I also think that there is more consistency between coaches than there used to be.  I believe that the ease at which information is shared between coaches in this information era is a big reason for this increased consistency.  It is much easier to gather "best practices" from the coaching community and this has reduced the number of programs with coaches that are really into bizarre and ineffective coaching methods.

11)  From your own coaching experience, what do you wish you could have done differently with your own training?  What about current runners?  What should they be doing that you did in HS but are not?
I wish I had kept better logs my running career.   I think keeping good records of what you do for your training and what results are produced is important.  It is pretty easy to distort your own memories about what you did and use that information to make poor judgments about future training plans.  I also think I could have benefited more from doing some tempo runs in high school.

I am a relatively new high school coach and certainly don't feel qualified to make to many judgments about what other coaches or athletes are doing.  I feel like I am still developing my own approaches and philosophies to high school coaching.

12)  Anything else you would like to add.
One thing I am passionate about is that you have to find a way to make it fun for the athletes.  This will not only attract more athletes and better athletes but will keep them coming back year after to year.  This is the key to high school coaching in my opinion.

Thank you very much for your time, Harold!  AJC

Here is a link posted by Hank Lawson that has video of the 1981 Kinney race (pre-Footlocker) which was won by current Los Altos HS coach Charles Alexander.  Kuphaldt finished in 2nd place.


Jerry Dodge said...

Fun reading this interview.  Harold is a great guy and is doing great things at BV.  Whitney and BV were in the same league for several years, and continue to be together in SJS D2, and our teams have had some really good battles recently.  I can say, even in the thick of tight competition, Harold is always polite, gracious, respectful and humble, as are his runners, who are a reflection of their coach.  This season, BV looks to be in their familiar position at or near the top of the section, with an especially exciting group of guys Harold has developed.  Congratulations Harold, being featured here is well deserved.  Thanks Coach Caruana for posting this.

Albert Caruana said...

This was actually an interview that I did years ago and brought back to the front. I know that I have new viewers each year and want to highlight interviews that I have done in the past that may have gotten buried.

Jerry Dodge said...

I figured it was from a few years ago when Harold said this past season was his first as head coach :-)

Anonymous said...

I was unfortunate to miss Coach Kuphaldt as a coach, but he definitely turned the Bella Vista XC program around. This upcoming spring, Bella Vista XC boys will be coming stronger than ever. I think 2019 XC was the first time in 10 years that they didn't send anyone to state, if it wasn't for a disappointing SJS section finals. They return most of their top 5 as seniors, and I am sure their focus is making the State Meet.

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