When we speak about the benefits of running we often speak about all the health benefits, the stress relief, and the pure joy it brings but yesterday I was reminded of one of the most overlooked benefit our sport has to offer, Friendship. I had the pleasure and opportunity to sit down for lunch with a group of runners from Cal High from the 1970's and their beloved coach who had such an impact in all their lives! Coach Lew Jones was the the coach at Cal High in the 1970's before XC races were even 3 miles and before girls ran separate races. Coach Jones was in his own right an amazing runner running at Sierra High School and Whittier College. A grad of Whittier College in 1967 he still to this day holds 2 records (800m – 1:50.75 and 1 mile – 4:10.5 – co-held). Even with all his accomplishments as a runner it was clear that the love these runners have for their coach so many years later had much less to do with this performance on the track and more with his role as a coach, a mentor, and role model for each and everyone of them. I heard story after story about them back in the day. Some were fast some not as much but all had plenty to say about the bonds they created while running and racing together. Stories about how some got into trouble and coach help them get straight and become strong young men on the right path. Some talked about races they remember and some spectacular performance that to this day they can still remember together and share from year to year! One of the stories that they told me just left me spelled bound. Running cross country in the 1970 during the first running boom in america was an experience in itself but to have been in high school the day of the death of Steve Prefontaine was of epic levels. The runners talked about when they first found out about the tragic accident that took this young runners life and how by pure instinct they all went straight to their coach's classroom almost in a trance with teary eyes and aching hearts. During such a sad time they knew no other than their coach that could help them make sense of hearing of their heroes death. It was moments like this and so many others that made it so clear how close they all were and how close they all continue to be to this very day! In 2011 Dan McMillan (1976), Bob Kuenzig (1977) and Dave Keck (1978) put together an email list and started asking friends and associates from the 1970’s track and cross-country teams to join us in a scholarship program which we called the Lew Jones Scholarship. The idea was to support students who had committed themselves to Cross Country and were college-bound with a small scholarship donation. Over the years they have given out 44 scholarships in excess of $11,000 total. The bond they forged in the 70's not only has helped them but is now having an impact in a whole new generation of runners in our community! To this day this group of runners gets together for lunch or dinner every 6 months like clockwork with their coach. As a coach, I can only hope a dream to have this bond so many years later with my runners as well. They are truly an inspiration to us all! Like them there are teams and clubs all over the country and world that share this trait in common and will one day hope to be following in the footsteps of these runners still laughing and talking about those years they spent doing the greatest sport in the world!
12/29/2017 10:14:47 am
Coach Jones and Mrs. Jones remain a huge influence in my life. I remain so grateful for their impact. No more running for this Calhi runner (knee replacement) but I count those days as some of the best.
12/29/2017 01:54:13 pm
Thank you Kerri for the nice words and all of you for sharing your story!
Cathy Senne (Clark)
12/31/2017 09:15:15 am
It was nice to meet you, David, and I wish you luck in starting the running clubs. I signed up for cross country through a strange series of events. I tried out for cheerleader, and didn't make it. I wanted 6th period PE, so I had to be in a sport. Thank God I never made cheerleader.
12/31/2017 09:19:18 am
Thank you Cathy I love hearing these stories from runners all over ! Happy New year!
Lorie McMillan Morris
12/31/2017 09:26:54 am
I was fortunate to have been a statistician for the Cross Country team in my freshman and sophomore years (mid Seventies) and to work alongside Janel Jones (coach Jones' sister). In my junior year I started running track and ran Cross Country in my senior year along with a formidable team-mate, Cathy Clark! Coach Jones was/is a wonderful mentor and encourager. One of my favorite memories is of Mrs. Marilyn Jones bringing their son to our meets. It was really a family affair! Like Kerri (also a former team-mate), no more running for me, but a life-long love of the sport. And I'm sure your impact, Coach Rojas, will be similar.
1/8/2018 01:16:30 pm
Hi Lorie and Cathy - truly my best HS memories are from running. Icing my shins, getting up early in the summer, fartleks!, stopping for freezer pops at my folks house when we'd run up to Penn Park.
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Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all