It's time to give credit where credit it due.
Each week, Coaching Distance will shine the spotlight on an exceptional high school distance program. This week's featured team is Central Catholic High School in Portland Oregon.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC HS
Boys Head Cross Country Coach
Boys Distance Coach in Track & Field
ABOUT COACH FRANK
Coach Frank has coached at Central Catholic HS for 22 seasons, 17 as the Head Coach. Prior to coaching at Central Catholic, Coach Frank spent 10 years at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California.
When asked what he enjoyed most about coaching, Coach Frank replied, "I love seeing kids buy into something bigger than themselves; be willing to sacrifice for each other."
Central Catholic competes in Oregon's largest division, Class 6A.
Since 2003, Central Catholic has been on a historic run of excellence at the Oregon State Cross Country Championships.
11x State Championship Teams
5x State Runner-Up Teams
2x 4th Place Finishes
Central Catholic came into the season ranked no better than 4th in Oregon, but after a huge win at the Chile Pepper Invite in early October, moved as high as 5th in the US High School rankings.
At the Oregon State Cross Country Championships, Central Catholic finished Runner-Up in a great race to US #3 Jesuit (66-83).
On individual highlights from the season, Frank wrote,
"Individually, junior Wes Shipsey finished third at both Chile Pepper and at the Oregon State Meet. Senior Max Girardet was the Chile Pepper champ, finished 6th at the Oregon State Meet (a fantastically deep and talented field), and was 30th at Running Lane (14:40)."
TRACK & FIELD
Central Catholic had some outstanding performances in the distance events last spring.
Coach Frank wrote,
"After such a difficult 2020, our boys had a phenomenal spring in 2021.
Julian Kingery (Class of '22) ran the second best 800m in school history, 1:52.92. He also finished 3rd at the (unofficial) State Meet.
Max Girardet (Class of '22) went 8:31 in the 3000m (converts to 9:09 for 3200m) to finish 9th at State.
Wes Shipsey '23 ran 8:59.40/3200m and 3:51.07/1500m (converts to 4:08.1 for 1600m) to break Galen Rupp's sophomore class record at Central Catholic."
CROSS COUNTRY TRAINING
Coach Frank: Of course things depend on where we are in the season, what meets are upcoming, etc., but a typical week would be:
Hard effort (repeat 1000s or a threshold run or fartlek) with a short morning run on their own. The afternoon workout almost always finishes with something faster, 150s or 200s.
General strength (GS), moderate run (we call it a SWING run), followed by strides or accelerations, and more GS. We started doing handstands as part of our GS a few years ago and try to do them 1-2 times per week.
League meet (with a morning run). Typically we do not race "all out" at these meets but instead find a way to work on some racing skill and/or get a solid workout. Much of this effort is aimed at bringing along younger runners, preparing them for a time when they'll be our varsity crew.
GS, GENTLE run, GS.
GS, SWING run with a 5-10min pickup on the end, strides, GS
We only really get fired up for a couple of these meets per season; instead we really focus on executing both individual and team plans so that we can be at our best in the late season (read: most important) races.
In some cases we will do some work following the race (ex: 10 x 200m @ 3km pace with equal time recovery).
We try to get a Long Run in almost every week until about 4-5 weeks until State, but we do not typically do a full long run the day after a meet. Instead we will go "long-ish", starting GENTLE and moving towards SWING for a 60-70min effort.
Sometimes we will just go gentle on Sunday and replace the Monday workout with a long run (with something inserted as described below).
If we do not race on Saturday we definitely do a full long run on Sunday, alternating between a steady effort one week and a run with some fartlek or progression the next week.
TRACK & FIELD TRAINING
Track is much the same, but there are so many different components:
1) Is the athlete more of an 800/1500 kid or 1500/3000 kid?
Those groups will do some work together and some separate from each other.
2) We do flying 30s every week during track season; typically 3-4 before we do some other kind of work.
3) The weather sometimes dictates the workout.
For example, if we know we want some intensity somewhere in the next 5-7 days- but it's 43 and pouring rain - we'll move that workout to another day and replace it with a threshold run or progressive or fartlek effort.
4) The demeanor/body language of the kids sometimes dictates the workout. (This is true in XC sometimes as well.)
5) How did last week go? If we had a great week or weekend of racing, we might change the workout to fit what we need. (True for XC also.)
We still try to do runs with a pickup on the end at least once a week.
We use more equipment (hurdles, mini hurdles, med balls, etc...) as we travel to our track (30min bus ride) much more often in the spring.
Note that we do not significantly decrease volume, as that aspect of training is part of a progression that began freshman year. Once we find the "sweet spot" in terms of volume we tend to stay there (although each week can be different based on the needs/focus of the week).
Coach Frank provided an extraordinary description of his favorite workout.
Coach Frank wrote:
In the summer we do the Washington Park Tuesday Night Fartlek.
Years ago – in the 1980s, long before the Oregon Project or the Bowerman Track Club – there were many outstanding post-collegiate runners in Portland. Most of them raced primarily on the roads, but each year they also ran the XC Nationals (which is now known as USATF Club Nationals).
To prepare for XC Nationals they began a weekly fartlek workout in Forest Park (miles and miles of amazing trails). When I came home in the summers I’d join this group for this "challenging" workout.
When I returned to coach at Central Catholic, a group was still doing this workout – although less regularly. I considered using it with our team, but was initially deterred by the effort it might take to implement it properly. After conversations with a few people I saw the light, and it’s been a staple of our summer program for over a decade now.
The workout is simple – but as Thelonius Monk says, “Simple ain’t easy.”
It is a four-mile loop with eight geographic pick-ups, ranging from 80m to 1000m. The terrain is mostly a single track trail, but it is possible to pass in certain areas. It is VERY hilly and twists and turns on a regular basis. We try to do this workout every 10-14 days in the summer, beginning the second week in July, although we come back to it in mid-fall as “comfort food” when it seems to be needed.
Logistics make it difficult to use in the winter, but we certainly would if we could. We meet in a parking lot about a 10-12min jog (on the trails) from the first pick-up. Depending on how much total volume we want for the day, we might do more than the initial 10-12min before starting the workout.
While the intent of the originators of the workout was a very hard and challenging effort, we’ve made it our own by adjusting the expectation and effort level to match our needs at any particular point in the season.
Early in the summer we might do just six pick-ups with our top group at a very sub-maximal effort; in early September it could be as many as 16 (doing the loop twice), with some of the pick-ups much harder. Generally speaking we don’t want our boys to “run to fatigue” in the summer. This workout allows athletes to run as they feel – although we do generally assign athletes to a particular group with instructions to run together.
There a few key benefits to this workout:
1) We often assign our “future varsity athletes” to run with the top group – and instruct the leaders to “keep the group together” for a certain number of pickups. This allows the newer guys to stay in the group and begin to develop confidence that they are capable of running with our better kids – and that they are, in fact, varsity level athletes.
For example, we might have the less experienced runners do seven pickups with the group. After number seven, those runners will simply complete the loop for more volume while the more experienced runners might do 10-12 total pickups (still doing two full loops). At this point the veteran athletes are given the green light to run harder, although we still want them under control. Often times the newer athletes will lead the early pickups with the veterans helping them understand the appropriate effort level for the group.
2) At some point in these workouts our athletes – regardless of fitness level – will approach VO2 work, although that is certainly not the primary goal of the workout. By touching that level of fatigue, we are making the later transition to VO2 work much more accessible.
3) As the summer continues, athletes will do more and more pick-ups. Each athlete can see their own progress in terms of the number of pick-ups and their ability to run with the group. This breeds confidence, one of the great keys to success.
4) For years this workout has been open to anyone who wants to join us. This includes alums, runners from other schools, masters runners, junior high runners. This inclusion helps our athletes see the great community of runners that exists and helps them see others as “co-conspirators” in their quest for greatness as opposed to deathly rivals.
Fifteen years ago, Dyestat published an article about this particular workout: http://archive.dyestat.com//?pg=reg72008CrossCountrySummer-of-the-Rising-Tidestory
While this certainly can be a challenging effort, the majority of our top runners over the years have claimed that it is their favorite workout that they do at Central Catholic.