Developing a Cross Country Program
Ken Sayles spent over thirty years as the head girls’ cross-country coach at Capistrano Valley High School (CVHS) in Mission Viejo, California. He was also the girls’ track distance coach for twenty-seven years and served as the head girls’ track and field coach for twenty-four years.
Following the 2014 season, in which his team was ranked as high as number eight in the nation, he was named Coach of the Year for Southern California by the California Coaches Association. CVHS competes in the most competitive area in the country, Southern California, and the most competitive subregion, Orange County, where he was named Coach of the Year by the Orange County Register.
Between 2012 and 2017, Capistrano Valley made the California State Meet six years in a row, a feat achieved by very few schools in California State Meet history. CVHS won the Orange County title twice and finished in the top three, six years in a row.
During his tenure, Coach Sayles coached one individual state cross-country champion and multiple Southern Section individual champions. In all, Coach Sayles coached over sixty individual South Coast League and Orange County champions in cross country and track and field. In 2017, he had the unique distinction of having a female athlete qualify for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) and a separate female athlete qualify for the Foot Locker Finals. In 2019, Coach Sayles helped a third female athlete compete at the Foot Locker Finals. As of this writing, he has four girls on Division 1 scholarships at universities in the Pac-12 conference, the toughest in the nation.
The first cross-country and track coach to be honored with the prestigious Southern Section of California’s, Coaching with Character Award, Coach Sayles was commended because of the “Victory with Honor” emphasis he demonstrated in his coaching career. He also served as head of the Southern California Cross Country Coaches Association and was a member of the CIF Southern Section Cross Country Advisory Committee.
Mr. Sayles taught in the Social Science department at Capistrano Valley High for thirty-four years. He taught Advanced Placement (AP) Government and International Baccalaureate (IB) History of the Americas. He was twice named “Teacher of the Year” and went on to win the Capistrano Unified School District “Teacher of the Year” in 1999.
He retired from the classroom in 2014 and stepped down as the full-time head coach in 2018. He now mentors a former star runner who is the new head coach.
“Coach” lives in Laguna Niguel California with his wife Melisa, a retired Spanish teacher and former assistant coach, and their Siberian husky, Luna. He serves as the volunteer race director for the BRAVE RACE 5k to benefit The Joyful Child Foundation—in memory of Samantha Runnion—which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crimes against children.