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2007 XC Week 5

Coach Rene Paragas

Saugus HS, CA

Throughout the 2007 cross-country season, the editors of DyeStat.com will choose an Eastbay National Coach of the Week to recognize coaches around the country for outstanding recent achievements in guiding prep athletes.

Coach of the Week Archive

This week's Coach of the Week is from HERE on DyeStatCal.com

The fine Boys and Girls program at Saugus HS this year has a group of young ladies on a real tear! Since the start of the year they have romped through all the competition with a ranking very near the top of the National Listings all season long. From a Meet Record run at Woodbridge at 86:21 (17:16 average), a 92:35 run at Woodward Park in the Clovis Invite (92:00 team time when all from different races added in), and another Course Record run at Mt. SAC with their 89:34 (17:55 average) run they have been dropping the bomb on the record book. They do not stop at seven runners, with the Junior Varsity the strongest in area history, with fourteen runners under 20 minutes at Mt. SAC and a trio in the second seven who can run 19:00 or better there.

The team has been a couple of years in the building, with Coach of the Week honors last year going to the school's trio of Christian Standley, Cal Linham, and Rene Paragas, with the first two away from the program for a time as they help raise their families or coach their own children in another sport in Cal's case. Coach Paragas has pressed on ahead in impressive style, with an exciting close to the 2007 campaign over the next month. Heck, we became real excited to hear that their league meet had been moved to Crescenta Valley Park this week, a challenging venue that runs very close timewise to the Woodward Park and is a historical local facility.

Doug Speck/Mike Kennedy

Coach Paragas Q&A

DyeStatCal - Off one of the top Girls team performances in State history, with a New Course Record run at the Mt. SAC Invitational, fourteen girls under 20:00, and a JV Girls' squad that most schools would die for, what are your thoughts on the season so far?

Coach Paragas - Utter shock! I knew we had a great summer of training and that we would be a very solid team that would surprise a lot of people. But to run as consistently well as we have and to be this deep of a team...Never did I dream that, let alone would I say that this is all going along as planned. I'm knocking on wood as we speak!

DSC - What were some of your and the girls' team's goals at the start of the season?

CP - In 2006 we were undefeated (save NTN), won the state meet and qualified for NTN. Going into the 2007 campaign we wanted to repeat all of those accomplishments, but avoid the bumps in the road along the way. But the #1 goal for our program, has and will always be the State Championships.

DSC - Has the overpowering team success that your squad has enjoyed affected them in any other way than positively, and how are you prepared to deal with overconfidence should it appear?

CP - Excellent question. If you have ever seen me post on the message boards, you may have noticed that my signatures all reflect the concept of "overconfidence." With my favorite quote coming from Bill Gates, "Success is a menace. It fools smart people into thinking that they can't lose."

We feel everything we have accomplished at Saugus has come from hard work and the work ethic of this team is unmatched. I was in Oregon this weekend for the PAC-10's. When I returned, I asked my captains how things went on Saturday. The report: Fourteen out of the top fifteen girls completed a 2-hour run on Saturday, with half of them returning on Sunday for another 40-minute run on their own. My response: Wow!

DSC - Often times on a squad with an especially strong varsity, team members behind that group fall off a bit as they defer those top five or seven spots to those quickest on the squad. What do you think are the reasons for the tremendous drive and depth that has carried your group this year to the great successes they have had this season and kept those beyond the Varsity continuing to improve?

CP - I would have to say there are three main reasons for this:
--Opportunity. There is no set varsity team. Anyone can be on this team if you work hard enough. Many of the girls who are now on the "B" team, were varsity runners and even scorers on our state championship team. They don't see themselves as JV runners.
--Long term aerobic development. A lot of the success we are enjoying now has come from dedicated year-round running with many of the girls on our team in their 2nd or 3rd year in the program. This has given our 8-15 girls the ability to continue to improve.
--Recognition. As a one time JV runner myself, even the slightest "pat on the back" can motivate young athletes for weeks at a time. Having events like the "JV National Championship" race are great ideas that I would like to see continue.

DSC - Were there any requirements during the summer for team participation, and how did you ease the four frosh athletes who are a part of that Varsity/JV group into the squad?

CP - As many have said before, "if you have a pulse, we'll take you"! With the exception of Mahoney, the other frosh standouts started out in what we call "Jenny's Group". They started with 24 minutes of running each day since July and have worked their way up through our training groups. Kaylin Mahoney jumped in with our varsity immediately. She basically did everything Katie Dunn did this summer.

DSC - Your group came out charging at Woodbridge and has not seemed to slow down since. What have you emphasized most since your late August preparation? (mileage, intensity, reducing interval length for more speed, or ????)

CP - Maintenance. Basically, the money is in the bank already. We were still in our base phase during Woodbridge. If we learned anything from last year, it was that the length of the season can crush the most fit team. Therefore, we have not strayed too far from threshold runs and long runs. They have been mixed in with what most would call "speed-work."

DSC - Have things settled down after the fires up your way, and how did they affect you and your team?

CP - The air quality is still not pristine, but we are running with the district's approval. At least half the team was evacuated because of the fires, but thankfully there was no loss of life or property. We dealt with the setback as best we could.

DSC - How have you changed your approach if any to coaching distance runners over the last few years?

CP - Less intensity, more recovery. I think I've come full circle. I always knew that consistency was the key to productive training, but I think we started to emphasize too much intensity and faced some setbacks. You can't rush developing distance runners. It takes years of patient training. Aside from that, I've mellowed out a bit, if only a bit.

DSC - Do you coach the Girls any different than the Boys team that you are involved with?

CP - Honestly, no. I know many will disagree, but aside from intensity, they are performing the same workload as the boys. Maybe I'm not pushing the boys hard enough! And it's actually a little easier coaching the girls. When I have something to say, they listen and try to follow it to the letter. You don't always get that with the boys.

DSC - You spoke in an interview after the Mt. SAC Invitational about working hard for the next month and hopefully peaking after that point, if and when hopefully qualify for the Nike Team Nationals in the sport--what is the background to this choice of action?

CP- I have the utmost respect for the Southern Section, having been humbled over the years by some superb teams. But we decided that if we wanted to run well at NTN, we had to train hard through this portion of the season. It may backfire on us, we may fall apart and not win CIF or state. But I think there is a responsibility to represent California well at NTN and the only way I know how to do that is to train through CIF.

DSC - If you had to pick one workout that you think best develops your squad for the 3 mile/5k races over hill and dale what would it be?

CP - Ah man...put me on the spot. I'd have to say any type of lactic threshold workout, be that tempo run, steady state, cruise intervals.

DSC - Do you try to reproduce specific course conditions during your practices or run over similar surfaces each week and attempt to explain to your team how to run different courses?

CP - Definitely. But it starts day one of the summer. There was a time when we trained solely for Mt. Sac. These days we are spending our time trying to find anything that compares to the conditions at NTN. So far no luck. Many times I will run with them in workouts talking to the girls. Getting them to visualize in the workouts and feel the urgency you experience in races. We also watch video of our meets and talk about strategy.

DSC - Who or what has influenced you most in your coaching of distance runners?

CP - My coaches: Thom Lacie, Dave Klinger, Dean Lofgren Others: Dr. Jack Daniels, Arthur Lydiard, Gene Blankenship, Mark Wetmore

DSC - While everyone is in awe of your team and program, has there been anything you have tried with your coaching that you changed directions on when you realized that for some reason it was just not making progress in the direction that you wished? Explain---

CP - As a coach, you are always making changes in your program. As I mentioned earlier, at one time I thought we were doing too much quality work. I'm more convinced now than ever about aerobic development. I've had the luxury of talking to guys like Jeff Nelson about the type of training that they did in the 70's to run those amazing performances. So much of it was just simple recovery type runs -- a whole lot of them!

Finally I just want to say thank you to everyone in the Saugus program. There are many more people involved than just myself. Without their hard work and dedication, much of what we have accomplished would not have been possible.

Thank you Rene - continued good luck

Doug Speck

Congratulations to Coach Rene Paragas, the fifth Eastbay National Coach of the Week for Fall 2007! Eastbay Coach of the Week Coaches will receive a team color Eastbay jacket.

Coach of the Week Archive