|4 Questions for Rob and Kathy Hipwood|
College: Adams State College
Years of Coaching: about 16 years each; Kathy helped at Adams State for one semester and Alamosa High for one year
Years at Los Alamos: starting our 14th year as head XC coaches, Rob has coached the distance boys in track for 16 years, Kathy has coached the distance girls for 15 years (although there is some separation within the track programs, workouts are planned together for the distance kids)
Pet Names: so glad you asked…Maggy, our dog & daughter… she’ll be in Alamosa as well!!! (we don’t usually take her, we’re just heading to a family reunion after the meet).
Favorite Movie: There are a lot. We like finding good non-mainstream movies to rent. But, as far as favorite, probably Shawshank Redemption for both of us; also The Fisher King for Kathy.
Question #1: Talk about returning every year to the Alamosa. Talk about your connection to Adams State College and Coach Damon Martin? What do you like about the High Altitude Challenge and racing in Alamosa? Talk about watching the former LA runners (Somers, Wood, McNiff) Do your current athletes look up to them?
R&K: Alamosa and Adams State have a very special place in our hearts. It’s a great community with such a friendly blend of cultures. If you spend any length of time in the San Luis Valley, it pulls you in. Sometimes from the outside it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a great place to live.
Damon is both a great friend and a coaching mentor. He came to Alamosa as a young grad assistant for the women’s program when we were finishing up our eligibility. He was Kathy’s coach for one year and was “the best coach she ever had.” Now, we just have a connection with him. We think alike and we respect his knowledge so much. Honestly, we don’t push our kids to go to Adams State, but we do encourage our athletes to go to the summer camp because it is such a great motivating experience. So if an athlete plans to run beyond high school and is interested in a smaller college, it becomes a top choice because he/she is already familiar with Damon’s incredible coaching and they want to run for him.
We like starting our season in Alamosa for a few reasons. First, there is just one girls’ race and one boys’ race, so it determines our pecking order at the beginning of the competitive season. Second, it’s a beautiful setting with the tall cottonwoods and Mt. Blanca on the horizon. Although we had a scary moment a couple of years ago when a deer almost took Holly Walker out during the middle of the race. The deer was moving fast, perpendicular to the race, and crossed the path just inches in front of Holly. She just screeched and kept going.
Finally, we like going to Alamosa because it gives a rare opportunity to see Adams State compete and it’s been especially meaningful in recent years watching Brittany, Heather and Ryan race. It is so awesome to see how they have progressed past high school. We know that if any coach will get them to reach their potential, it’s Damon Martin. With such a large team, most of our kids don’t have aspirations to run in college; so it probably means more to us than them, but if it touches a few, that’s great.
Coach Vigil is making a rare return to Alamosa this weekend for the meet and the Hispanic Heritage celebration on the Adams State campus, so that’s another huge plus for us this year.
Question #2: Talk about working together as a Wife/Husband Team. How do you share coaching responsibilities? What are you individual strengths and weaknesses?
R&K: Although it may not work for every husband & wife, it just does for us. It is a passion that we share; and, in fact, because it is such a lifestyle, we think it would be very difficult if one of us did it and the other didn’t. There is no clear delineation of duties, but it is funny that some things have remained in one person’s hands over the years just because that’s how we started doing it (eg: Rob dealing with getting home meet stuff sent out, Kathy working with parents on our big fundraiser). Strengths and weaknesses, hmmm… honestly, it may sound corny, but we juggle back and forth so much that it is quite synergistic and our strengths/weaknesses are similar. We don’t really know, but you could ask our kids.
Question #3: Talk about the Academy/Los Alamos rivalry. How do your athletes perceive the Academy team? Do the kids talk about Academy?
R&K: It’s a great rivalry, but too lopsided on the boys’ side! There is certainly mutual respect between the athletes from both schools. We are all competitive and want to come out on top, but we know it means beating the best to do so. Both teams took tremendous pride in being the two schools representing the SW at NTN last year.
It’s hard not to talk about Academy. For the boys, our two teams have been at the top of the standings for 9 straight years and since 2000 on the girls’ side. And at least for the time being, we don’t see it changing… both state titles in 4A go through Academy and Los Alamos. As Adam (Kedge) often says, it’s “red or green.”
It’s probably a very unique rivalry when you consider the close friendship that we have with Adam. Rob and Adam communicate almost daily throughout the season via email. It’s a lot of talk about what’s going on related to XC or track, but there’s much more to it. It’s a relationship that goes beyond coaching, it’s a very genuine friendship.
Question #4: You are one of few coaches who have had a boys and girls team qualify to the Nike Team Nationals. Discuss those two experiences. How do you balance training two quality teams year after year?
R&K: Both were incredible experiences and we feel very fortunate to have had both a girls and boys team qualify for NTN. The girls went the first year and had been ranked high nationally in the preceding years, so there was more expectation attached to them. It was actually a bit of a tumultuous season; but ultimately, they ran well and had a wonderful time. Ironically, the boys had been more consistent throughout that season and would have gone as well, but they had a rough state meet and Academy “upset” us and got the nod for NTN. It was hard to know which was greater: the girls’ elation or the boys’ devastation. The boys’ disappointment in 2004 made last year very special though. It truly was a dream season and things could not have fallen into place more ideally. It also left them extremely motivated for this year and we want to make sure that they keep perspective. NTN is absolutely amazing, but a state title would mean even more.
As far as balancing two quality teams each year, the principals are the same and the level of achievement depends on so many factors beyond our control. There is a varying ebb and flow of athletes coming into the program and gaps resulting from graduation. Our double state championship in 2003 is definitely a highlight. Actually, we find the balancing of different ability levels among the whole team more challenging than the balancing of boys and girls and are still looking for ways to do so successfully. We want to maintain the inclusive atmosphere of cross country without compromising the individual needs/goals of our top athletes.