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Coach Brent Haley — October, 2009
Brent Haley coached the Largo High School boys' cross-country team from 1969 to 1987. During those 19 seasons the Packers were Florida 4A State Champions ten times (1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1987) and runners-up six times (1969, 1971, 1972, 1978, 1982, and 1984), never finishing farther back than eighth in the final standings. No coach has ever coached his team to more high school cross-country state championships in Florida. His team won Pinellas Athletic Conference Cross-Country Championships 20 times, were 17 times District champs and nine times Region champs. He coached four individual 4A State Cross-Country champions. Coach Haley was also the Largo High School Track and Field coach and his team was 1972 and 1980 4A State runner up. His runners won fifteen individual 4A State Track and Field championships. In 1981 Coach Haley was inducted into the Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame. He was named the 1976 National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Haley graduated from Florida State University in 1962 and St. Petersburg High School in 1958 where he was captain of the football team and scored personal best times of 2:02 for 880 yards and 4:50 for the mile. While his Air Force father was stationed in New Hampshire he was the 1955 New Hampshire State 880 champ. He resides in St. Petersburg with Linda, his wife of 42 years. Coach Haley sat down with Jason Byrne of and me and discussed topics in four categories: 1) His Florida coaching history; 2) Building, keeping and coaching a cross country dynasty; 3) Training and 4) Racing.
GCR:HISTORY Who were some of the top coaches you faced during your tenure as Cross Country Coach at Largo High School?
BHWe faced a lot of teams with great coaches. I think the best coaches were Bobby Ennis of Tampa Leto, Nick Gailey of Titusville Astronaut, current University of Florida Coach Mike Holloway who was at Gainesville Bucholtz and Geoff Pietsch of Miami Ransom-Everglades. Every one of those coaches that I mentioned was as good as me and maybe I wasn’t as good as some of them.
GCR:How tough was it racing in your conference on the way to State competition?
BHWe were in the Pinellas Athletic Conference and to me the Conference meet was the second most important meet of the season behind the State meet. From 1973 to 1987 there were four different teams from our conference that won the State meet plus nearby Tampa Leto that wasn’t in our conference but was in our Region. In 1975 St. Petersburg High won State with top runner Brett Hoffman and my brother, Rick Haley, coaching. Joe Soutullo was the coach of Lakewood in 1978 and I really feel they were one of the top five teams ever to run in Florida. In 1985 Jim Thurston from Countryside coached his team to the championship. Bobby Ennis’ teams of Leto were very prominent in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. In track season our Region was so competitive that there were times where the runners who were fifth or sixth could have been fifth or sixth in the State but were left at home as only the top four advanced.
GCR:What were some of the most competitive State Meets while you coached?
BHOne of the best State meets I can recall, as far as runners going to their maximum ability, was the 1980 State meet where there were four teams in the running and we finished ahead of Leto 61 to 64. Then in 1982 they returned the favor and beat us by three points. Neither of us had our best team that year, but we duked it out and they beat us 103 to 106.
GCR:Why were the runners so fast and was the competition so fierce back in the 1970s and 1980s?
BHThere were lots of reasons including good coaching; the kids were really into it and rivalries. You didn’t have to go far to get into a really tough meet. Also the publicity we got was tremendous compared to what there is today. Some scrapbooks of mine show that the newspaper publicity for the 1978 State meet was as great as any high school football teams get. Kids like recognition which really helps the sport and that has decreased in recent years. Also, sportswriter Bill Ward from the Tampa Tribune had run for Dixie Hollins High School and did an awesome job of reporting on cross country. That was another advantage we had at that time.
GCR:Who were some of the top runners from your 19 years at Largo High School?
BHI fortunately had a lot of them. In 1972 we finished one-two in the cross country State meet with Jeff Howdeshell and Don Waters. Don was the State mile champ in 1971 and 1972 with around a 4:16 both times. He went on to the University of Texas and ran about 4:04. Jeff was at his best in cross country. Unfortunately in 1972 at the State meet one of my top three runners, Ed Palmer, got knocked into a tree down at Lake Worth and hit his head. He ended up 27th and was as good as my other two runners. The next year Ed came back and ran 12:11 for 2 ½ miles at Titusville Astronaut’s course to win State by nine seconds to lead us to a team victory. No one had come close to that time on that course. Bart Sellers was a top runner for me from 1978 to 1980 and was undefeated in 1980 beating Fred Carly of Niceville who was under 9:10 for 2-miles as a ninth grader. Basil McGee was a great runner but lost in the 1979 State meet to future Olympian Keith Brantly. Basil had some great track times of 1:51.8 for 880 yards, 4:08.8 for a mile which was a State Record at the time and 9:02 for two miles. Bart was able to beat Carly at State the next year on a slow, sandy course in Lake Worth. Pat McDonough won the State 2-mile in 9:17 as a sophomore. He got mono his junior year, but came back his senior year to win the mile and 2-mile around 4:13 and 9:13. He also won the State cross country meet at Titusville with a time of 14:44. Pat and Bart were rare in that they won the cross country, mile and 2-mile titles in the same year. Mike Warre ran track times of 1:53, 4:13 and 9:11 and did 14:35 for 3-miles cross country. Gary Funkhouser was third individually in the State meet on my first State Championship cross country team and ran a 9:17 2-mile in being undefeated his junior and senior track seasons. Chris Palmer, Ed's brother, finished in the top ten in the State cross country meet three times with a best 5k of 15:03 and ran a 9:14 2-mile. I had a lot of other really good runners and tremendous kids, but those were my top runners.
GCR:How many State Championships did you win?
BHI didn’t win any. That is one of my pet peeves… when a coach says he beat somebody. I was a 2:02 half miler and probably better at football than track. My runners were good – I know I had a part in it, but my runners were the main part. We won ten State Championships and were runner up six times. In 1980 we had five runners under 4:20 for the mile in track so (in jest) I must be the greatest coach ever. But in one of my latter coaching years we only had one runner break 5:00 in the mile. I was the same coach and tried just as hard but I didn’t have the ‘guns’ and the kids didn’t want to train as hard. I could still coach and can still coach today, but you have to have the kids who will do what they need to do to win. In 1983 we had 23 kids on the Largo cross country team and they all could all break five minutes in the mile and 17 of them could break 17 minutes for three miles in cross country. All this stuff about what I won – I helped, I didn’t win them.
GCR:Despite Largo High School’s ten state titles, do you feel your teams could have won more?
BHWinning breeds success and success breeds winning. In 18 years we were state champions 10 times but beat the state champ earlier in the season in seven of the other eight years which shows how competitive it was. Sometimes we didn’t run that well at State because maybe we raced too hard at some other races. In 1975 we had a good summer of training and beat St. Pete early in the year but they beat us at State. I knew they’d probably beat us at State, so I’d rather beat a team during the season than not at all.
GCR:Out of all your championship teams are there any of which you are most proud or that really stick out in your mind? Was there a team that overachieved?
BHThe 1973 team overachieved. They were all ‘team guys’ and just a great team. My 1979 team was another favorite. I liked all of my teams – some better than others – but I like kids. I don’t see how you can be successful coaching if you don’t like kids. I really like kids who are ‘team people.’
GCR:You talked about your runners, but who were some of the top adversaries that your runners faced during this time period on the cross country course?
BHThe first I remember is Tommy Curtis of Brandon who ran 12:31 for 2 ½ miles on that slow, sandy Jacksonville course to win the 1973 State title (interviewer’s note – I was a 9:20 2-miler the following spring and ran a strong 13:00 for seventh place behind Curtis, so 12:31 was extremely impressive). Brett Hoffman, the first Florida runner under 9:00 for two miles and nobody has broken his times. Other top runners were Tallahassee Leon’s Herb Wills, Jeff Warrick of Bradenton Bayshore, Billy Convey of Ransom-Everglades, Eric Van Artz of Venice and Kenny Clark of Rockledge. Brian Jaeger of Winter Park and Keith Brantly of Winter Haven were some others. It was a time that created a lot of great memories. Something you want to do as a coach is to create a program that kids will remember the rest of their life and I think we did that. That’s something I’m very proud of. One of the top teams was the 1976 Choctawhatchee team. They killed us at the FSU Invitational early in the season. They annihilated us at the Largo Invitational – we ran well and they won the meet by a 42-93 score as they had five guys run 15:13 on our course which none of my teams ever accomplished. Also, seven of their runners ran under 2:45 for a marathon – they were tremendous – they had depth and everything. But we beat them at the State meet. I was sad for their coach, Richard Westbrook, but I was more happy than sad. I just wish they were in a different classification so both teams could have been State champs. They were a better team than us, but I think they had trouble coming from Tallahassee where it was in the 40s and 50s all week and it was about 90+ degrees on race day in Ft. Lauderdale. They were as good as any team ever in Florida but didn’t win a championship.
GCR:What were your coaching influences and was there a lot of sharing of information among the core group of coaches who took Florida from its running infancy to a higher level in the 1970s?
BHI thought I was good as I’d done a 2:02 half mile in high school under Coach George Strauss at St. Pete High in 1958 who had won three State championships. At FSU I only improved to 2:01 and ended up getting a stress fracture. Coach Mike Long liked me a lot and taught me quite a bit. I got started in coaching in 1967 at Largo and we were awful. I promised the kids ice cream sundaes if we didn’t come in last in the Conference and we beat Lakewood so they got their sundaes. Then I went to the NCAA Track meet and bought the book, ‘The Long Green Line,’ by Coach Joe Newton, and saw how his Illinois High School made cross country into a big deal with ten school busses taking kids to watch. I went to clinics with Coach Bobby Ennis, who was my rival, but was and still is my best friend. I listened to a talk by Arthur Lydiard and read ‘Run to the Top.’ Coach Dick Roberts helped me by suggesting we run higher mileage. I did things by trial and error and had my runners doing 70-75 miles during the summer with no distance base before and we did training runs as long as 19 miles. One time I stopped to give them a water and Gatorade break and locked my keys in the car. I had to go to a house and call a taxi which was over twenty-five dollars to get a ride to where I was meeting the runners at the finish. Then we went to race in Titusville in 1969 and I saw what Coach Gailey was doing. I was also coaching football and, like society, looked at cross country as a minor sport. But it was not a minor sport in Titusville as there were signs all over the school, cheerleaders at the meets and all kinds of excitement. So I followed suit and got our school band to come to our meets. Nick Gailey was the one who headed up the FHSAA committee that set up coaching clinics and brought in good speakers such as John Couchlin from Southern Illinois, Joe Newton and Harry Groves. I learned a lot from those people.
GCR:In 1974 the Florida 4A State Cross Country meet was very loaded. Champion Tommy Curtis was a double State champ in track in the mile and 880 at 4:10 and 1:52, super-soph Brett Hoffman ran an 8:56 2-mile in track and there were runners who could break 9:20 in the 2-mile who couldn’t break the top ten. Are there any races from this time period that stand out as far as competitiveness on an individual level?
BHThe following fall at the 1975 Largo Invitational Brett Hoffman faced Mike Warre who was a 4:13 / 1:53 runner and Bob Braman who is coach at Florida State. Mike Warre won on a tough course in 14:35, with Hoffman at 14:36 and Braman at 14:38. One of the greatest races ever run in Florida was the 1979 State meet between my runner, Basil McGee, Winter Haven’s Keith Brantly and Fred Carly.. For three miles Brantly won in 14:18, with McGee at 14:30 and Carly a second behind in 14:31.
GCR:BUILDING, COACHING AND KEEPING A CROSS COUNTRY DYNASTY What is harder – building a strong cross country program or staying at a high level?
BHThere’s a saying in sports that it’s easier to get to the top than to stay on top, but I think it’s easier to stay at the top than to get there. It’s because your kids sometimes don’t know if something can be done, but once they’ve got to the top and know the work it takes to get there, then that gets your program going. In cross country you need at least six kids with average or above average ability and far better than average dedication. You hope to have more, but you have to have six. You need six because one always seems to be sick or injured and we always had that during the times we were good and when we didn’t we weren’t as good.
GCR:How did you replace your runners with a new group since they were constantly graduating and ‘new blood’ was needed?
BHI had brothers that followed brothers like the Winters, McQuilkin, Anspach, Benedict, Marion and Palmer brothers - they wouldn’t have gotten to the sport if not for their big brothers. All you need is a coach that knows what he’s doing and some kids that buy into the program. You have to do a lot of things to motivate kids and you need kids who are willing to be motivated. We had a meeting every year in May to encourage kids to come out for the team. There would be announcements at school and my wife would make signs. Also, I was a physical education teacher and during our few days of a track unit I would have the kids run the half mile and anyone under 3:00 or 2:45 I would try to get out for the cross country team. I would tell them, ‘We need you’ and ‘You can be somebody’ and I got a lot of kids out that way. I got some 2:44 and 2:48 half milers in P.E. class who turned out to be sub-9:20 2-milers. That’s how we got kids out to the meeting and then we hoped we’d get 40 – 50 kids out for the team.
GCR:What did you do with your prospective team members to get them started?
BHI’d give them a preseason booklet that included everything they needed to do until fall practice began and it started with running in June. I gave the kids a list with everyone’s phone numbers and try to get them to run with buddies. We always opened up with the toughest meet I could schedule which was the Titusville Astronaut Invitational. I’d send each kid a letter over the summer to see how their training was progressing and tell them, ‘I know Astronaut High and Leto High are running hard and, if you aren’t, we won’t be beating them.’
GCR:What did you do to evaluate how your team’s summer training had gone and their outlook for that fall?
BHI’d meet with the team around the third week in July. On the first day we met I’d have veteran runners run four miles at a goal time they should have been able to do if they’d been training well. I thought of a line from the movie Hoosiers, ‘What kind of a hand have I been dealt,’ and I always found out each year on that day. I knew how much they had been running.
GCR:What were some of the things you did to build team camaraderie and to instill in the new runners the ‘Largo High School Cross Country tradition?’
BHWe had a team outing where we would go to the Wet ’N Wild water park in Orlando. Over the summer it is important to take a trip with your team and we would usually go to an out-of-town road race. During the season we would always go to one meet that was a couple hundred miles away and take the team scrapbooks from earlier years. In 1974 we lost early in the season to South Plantation so the next week we went down to the South Plantation Invitational. We got there 45 minutes before the race because I got lost like I usually do. But we were able to beat them which made it a successful trip. It’s extremely important that you better have a spouse who’s bought in to what you are doing. My wife bought into this tremendously. The kids read about the great runners in the scrapbooks she kept and wanted to keep the tradition going. We always did the 2-mile postal meet to see what the guys could do – you added up your top five guys’ times and in 1983 we did 47:35 which was the best in the country. Whenever my runners ran under 10:00 for the 2-mile they received a patch. Runners also earned team t-shirts by running certain times. We had a team party at my house before the season. We had end of the year parties and showed films of races we did during the years. We had a room where our kids ‘dressed out’ for practice with slogans on the wall. One of my favorites was, ‘Press on! Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than an unsuccessful man with talent. Persistence and determination alone are everything.’ But mainly we had great kids.
GCR:You started out coaching both football and cross country. What influenced you to focus only on cross country?
BHFootball is the number one sport and we got it to where cross country was as popular among the students as football. I coached both and stopped coaching football to concentrate on cross country. One thing I like is that in cross country your team will get what they deserve. Talent is important, but you have a good chance to do well if you work hard.
GCR:Did you find that because of the excitement of cross country at Largo High that maybe some of the kids who weren’t naturally athletic in other sports – they weren’t big enough for football or tall enough for basketball - saw cross country as an exciting place they could succeed and have a ‘family’ to belong to?
BHAbsolutely, as kids love recognition. They love being a part of something. They love winning. That’s why we got kids we may not have and why I say it’s easier to stay on top than to get there. I was named national cross country coach of the year in 1976 and there was no way I was the best coach. In 1983 anyone could have coached our team as we were just loaded. We just had to get someone to get them to the meets. I know I can motivate kids, but the program motivated kids more than I did.
GCR:How did you get the kids to come together to do the best for their team even though each was also trying to do his best for himself?
BHBecause kids like recognition and the only way you get acknowledged as an individual is if you were the best runner in the state. For a kid who is good and maybe 15th best in the state, the only way he will get recognition is if the team wins the State championship. The kids bought into the program and they wanted to do it.
GCR:TRAINING CHAMPIONS Great cross country teams need summer training to build for the fall season. What type of mileage did your runners do and were there any favorite tempo, stamina or speed sessions included in your summer training program?
BHIf a kid was experienced he would run about 70 miles per week. I used to have them do one run a day, but later on I tended toward two runs a day. If they did two runs there would be one run that was harder and an easy run, which for a 10:00 2-miler would be about 7:00 pace per mile. For the faster runners there were days where I had them do three times two miles possibly at 13:00, 12:00 and 11:00. It was at a tempo certainly slower than their racing ability. There were times where they ran three times three miles in 19:00, 18:00 and 17:00 with six minutes in between with a 2-mile warm up and warm down. Every other day they ran six strides for turnover. Two of my favorite workouts in the summer are what we called the ‘Bear’ workout (four miles, three miles, two miles and one mile with a five minute rest break) and the ‘Cub’ workout for younger runners which omitted the 4-miler. We used measured miles on the road. The top runners would run four miles at 5:45 – 6:00 pace, three miles at 5:30-45 pace, two miles at 5:15-30 pace and then finish on the track with a sub-5:00 mile. Most of the top runners on my good teams could do that. Another run was a handicapped race where runners ran different distances based on ability and tried to finish first. Summer training included high mileage, learning pace and running harder on some runs and easy on some.
GCR:What did you do to set the tone for the coach - runner relationship?
BHMy thoughts are that on the first day you have to let your kids know your expectations. But only say things that you will follow through on. One time when I was offensive line coach on the Largo football team a player jumped off sides in practice. The head coach said, ‘If anyone else jumps off sides, the whole team is doing 50 times 50 yard sprints.’ Someone did and it was so hot in the August heat that kids ended up collapsing on the field, throwing up and holding themselves up against a fence. And that was the end of practice. Afterwards the coach told me, ‘We never should have done those fifty fifties, but after I said that we had to.’ My number one rule is simply to come to practice and to try. My rules were you could miss one practice for any reason, a second practice and you didn’t run the next meet and a third time you were off the team. I had to dismiss only three kids in all my years of coaching.
GCR:What were some of your favorite training sessions as fall practice began and during the early and mid-season? What did you do to combat the Florida heat and runner fatigue
BHOne favorite workout was we sometimes ran the odd distance of one and one-quarter mile. I think runners need a variety of places to run so we would run on grass or on the track. If the kids were tired and heavy-legged we would take an easy day of just five slow miles. I think its real important coaching in Florida to have practice in the evening because it’s so hot after school so we would practice at 6:00 p.m. and often finish up when it was getting dark. We got on the track every week or two so we could run fast. In season one of my favorite workouts was five times three laps, which used to be 1,320 yards but is now 1,200 meters, with a five minute rest break. We would take the average target time and run six seconds slower, three seconds slower, target pace, three seconds faster and six seconds faster. I believe tremendously in even paced racing and that is something we worked on all of the time. A workout I liked during track season for the 2-mile was running 16 220s, four sets of four at mile race pace. The rest break dropped each set from 60 seconds to 45 seconds to 30 seconds to 15 seconds. I always told the kids that it started out as ‘cake’ but ended up as ‘spinach.’
GCR:Did you have an overall philosophy that you wove through your entire training plan?
BHI wanted to find some tough kids. I thought it was important to give kids workouts they could complete. My kids wanted to make their workouts and sometime it took some courage to make it. I would take this plan to the race and set a planned pace for my guys for the first half of the race. I wanted my runners to run the first half with their brains and the second half with their guts.
GCR:What are your thoughts on over training versus under training?
BHA lot of times you have to coach by feeling. If the team is tired and going backwards maybe they’ve had too many hard workouts. If so, you have to run easy and just do stride outs for five to seven days. Sometimes easier is the best thing you can do. Sometimes if a cross country program has a large number of very good runners some of the workouts are the survival of the fittest. A coach has to be careful because I think you can break a kid down. I’d rather make it a bit too easy than a bit too hard.
GCR:Did you schedule any workouts that were race specific? How about any sessions that were unusual to break things up for your runners?
BHOne workout we did was targeted to get us out fast on courses where you needed a fast start. We’d start with a quarter mile on the track in 65 – 70, then a 2 ½ mile trail at good pace, maybe 6:00 -15 pace, then a measured half mile around 2:25-30 and then back to 6:00-15 pace. It taught my runners to go out hard, settle into a pace, push in the middle to break someone and then get back into pace. Sometimes at the end we would also kick hard. In any sport you coach you have to coach for situations that may come up. As I mentioned, in the 1972 State meet I had a guy get knocked down. So I did a workout in subsequent years where I’d blow a whistle and my runners would fall down, do a somersault and get back up and run. It taught them to run after hitting the ground. In track with relays I’d have them drop the baton, pick it up and then move back up slowly. One workout I liked for Saturday mornings was a ‘grab bag’ workout that I learned from Coach Nick Gailey. I put different things like ‘4 x 440s at race pace’ or 2-miles at 80% effort’ in a bag and the kids would reach in and pull out the next thing to do. I had some that said ‘go home’ that I’d keep in my pocket and would put them in after a while. We also had a ‘banana split’ relay where the winners were the team who ran their assigned pace. The winners got banana splits. Another one was where I’d put orange cones on a golf course and the runners would have to gather cones and bring them back to the start. Then there was a workout which was sort of like tag, there were boundaries and a runner would have to chase down other runners and then they’d take their shirts off. The last runner with a shirt was the winner.
GCR:Did you do any hill workouts and when did you start to dial back your cross country team’s training?
BHAbout three times a month we would do hill repeats where we ran up the hills hard and down easy. We decreased our training about three weeks before state. I also had a theory: If you didn’t have to, never run all out at the region meet. So many times in cross country and track the best meet was the meet before state. We’d cut back and do easy pace work and light speed work.
GCR:During the Championship meet season what did you do differently to keep your kids racing at their best or reaching peak performances?
BHIn cross country, after I figured out what worked, our state meet week was the same each year. On Monday we did a five mile trail that was difficult but not hard. For someone who could do five miles in 26 minutes, it would be 29-30 minutes. On Tuesday we ran half of the race distance at race pace. On Wednesday we ran six 200s in 30-32 - quick, but not tiring. On Thursday we did an easy run with some strides. Finally, on Friday we did some easy jogging. In track I did the same thing. I always believed in telling my kids the truth, but one thing they don’t know to this day is when we ran the mile and a half before the state meet I didn’t let them wear watches and I always gave them a time a little bit faster than they really ran. I guy may have run 7:32 and I would say, ‘You ran 7:21 – you are really ready!’ That’s the only time I told any type of lie. I always did tell my kids they were tough because of their training. Being mentally tough is a big part of what this sport is all about. In track we did the same type of training and by March we were doing shorter and faster workouts. Interval work is the fastest way to improve but after a while there are diminishing returns. After about six weeks of interval training we would change and do very fast intervals with a big rest. For a 4:16 miler this could mean three 660s in 1:30 with a 15 minute rest.
GCR:In any relationship, including coaching, trust and belief are so important – both that they trust and believe in you and know you have their best interests in mind and that you believe and trust in them if they say they are injured or sick. What are your thoughts on this?
BHYou have to coach kids like you’d like to be coached yourself. If all they were was some tool for me to win state championships then neither of us got much out of it. You have to like kids and care about them. But I was like a benevolent dictator. If it came down to it, we were going to do what I wanted to do. I would say, ‘Son, that’s why they put ‘coach’ on my shirt.’ If any kid told me he was hurt, sometimes I wouldn’t be sure, but I’d always give the kid the benefit of the doubt. How did I know if he wasn’t telling me the truth?
GCR:Many teams these days run 30 – 50 miles per week. Do you think the 70-mile weeks were a primary reason for there being so many faster runners back when you were coaching?
BHYes I do. Maybe we sometimes built up a bit too fast, but everyone back in the 1970s and 1980s was doing high mileage of 70 miles a week or more. I do think many of the good runners these days run 70 miles a week, there just aren’t as many doing it.
GCR:RACING Due to the team aspect of cross country, did you encourage runners of similar ability to run together during races?
BHWhat we always tried to do was run even pace and we would run in packs based on ability. We worked on pace as much as any team in the state. Since most runners go out very fast in cross country I would instruct my runners to go out more conservative. If I had a guy who was capable of finishing in the top five, I’d tell him to be in the top 15 by the half mile; if a runner was capable of a top 15 finish I’d tell him to be in the top 30 by the half mile and so on. If runners were close in ability, I’d have a slightly better runner stay with another runner for 2 ½ miles. Mental fatigue sets in before physical fatigue which is why runners have such great kicks at the end. When we finished second behind St. Pete in 1975 I had Mike Warre stay back and help the next guys. In 1983 at the conference championship we wanted a perfect score of 15. My first four guys were going to place first through fourth, so I had them run with the fifth guy. They all ran together and we got the ‘15.’ If we had been racing hard during the season and it was okay with the guys I’d have them tie for first place. Sometimes I’d have them run together for two miles and then they were on their own the rest of the way.
GCR:With so many good teams and close team tussles, did your runners know who they had to beat near the end?
BHWe went over that and talked about driving through the finish line. I told them, ‘Drive the line even if you are the sixth runner as we may need you to break a tie.’ In 1979 against Chaminade High I was trying to get my kids going during the race and was yelling for them. One of my runners who had done 1,300 miles over the summer said during the race, ‘Don’t worry coach, we’ve got them by at least 50 points.’ Now that was funny! One time we would have knocked a runner fro m Dixie Hollins High out of the state meet so I had my runners let him finish high enough to advance as it didn’t affect our winning the race. I didn’t like where people hated their opponents. They raced hard but were friends.
GCR:Runners tend to slow down in the middle of a cross country race. What did you do to help avoid or minimize this?
BHI always talked about ‘running the middle.’ I got that from Nick Gailey and went over it all of the time. Then my runners worked on leg turnover and getting up on their toes at the end of a race.
GCR:What was some of the greatest advice you gave your runners so that they raced their best?
BHBefore their first meet I would tell my kids – ‘Are you going to be tentative or are you going to fire all of your bullets.’ If they didn’t do what they could have in a race I told my runners, ‘You’re tougher than that. You’re better than that and I expect more next week.’ I talked about the mental thing as ‘you’re tougher than the other runners.’ When you think someone is better then you they‘ve got you, but do your best, and if they mess up you can beat them. In 1976 I told the kids, ‘Choctawhatchee is better than us, but run your best and if they have an off day we can win,’ and we did. On some of my teams the runners were very good all the way back to number 12 or 14 so the junior varsity runners posted times and then guys got knocked off varsity. We lost the 1978 state meet to Lakewood 47-52 and we had beaten them about six of nine times and I’m not sure if I ran the right guys. I had ten sub - 10:00 2-milers but may not have had the rights guys out there. After that I learned I need to talk to the kids more as one sophomore had let the pressure of the day get to him. I’d tell my runners, ‘In class you do the work and know the answers for the test. It’s like that in racing - you’ve done the work and are ready for the test – the race.’ I would also say, ‘Don’t have negative thoughts - if you think you’ll do badly, you will.’ I would tell them about Larry Bird at a three point shooting contest where he said, ‘Which one of you is coming in second?’ Then I would say, ‘Look at the other runners and think, ‘which one of them will be second?’ ’ My final advice at the State meet would be to tell them they are good and ready - they’ve trained all year and if they believe in themselves they will do well.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsGoing to the Greyhound races
NicknamesAs a kid my nickname was ‘Buzzard.’ At age 14 we were hunting and shooting at some coots when a buzzard fell out of a tree that I apparently hit. So I got the nickname ‘Buzzard’ which was shortened to ‘Buzz’ which I liked better
Favorite movies‘The Monty Stratton Story’ from 1949 with Jimmy Stewart and June Allison about a baseball player who had won 23 games as a pitcher but then got his leg shot off in the war and tried a comeback with a prosthetic leg
Favorite TV showsAnything they keep score in as I like sports – I am a huge college football fan
Favorite songsMusic by Frankie Lane, Gene Pitney and Elvis Presley. I like ‘My Way,’ ‘Memories’ and ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’ I’m a 50s and 60s guy
Favorite booksHardy Boy books when I was a kid
First car1950 Ford I got my freshman year in college. I rode a bike to school in high school
Current carA 2003 Chevy Cavalier and a 1998 Chevy Cavalier (that’s it for cars as they’re paid for and I don’t need a car payment on the Florida retirement system)
First JobWorking for Western Union. I was supposed to be delivering via bike, but I rode around in my car. One day it was raining and I was supposed to be wet, but I was dry in my car, so I got out and stood in the rain so I’d be wet when I went back in the office. Since I got done early I would catch a movie or play some football while 'on the job.'
Family, Children and SiblingsWife – Linda; married 41 years (42 on Dec. 28, 2009); Daughter, Kelly, 39, a fourth grade teacher has two daughters; Son, Brent, 37, works for Marriott Hotels and has two kids
PetsI’ve never been a 'pet guy' but I love my daughter’s dog
Favorite mealShrimp cocktail and cheeseburgers. I would schedule meets in Lake Wales because this one restaurant had the best cheddar cheeseburgers anywhere
Favorite breakfastBefore diabetes it was pancakes; now I like omelets
Favorite beveragesPre-diabetes it was Mountain Dew; when I drank alcohol I liked Bloody Marys
Coaching HeroesNick Gailey, Bobby Ennis; my high school coach, George Strauss; my college coach Mike Long
Greatest Coaching Moment Possibly winning the 1973 State Cross Country Championship as the team had faced a lot of adversity. A lot of it was based on the disappointments of 1971 in track and 1972 in cross country
Worst Coaching momentThe week of the 1971 State track meet and the meet. My best two runners were a miler and 440 guy. The miler’s dad died the Monday before the meet. The 440 guy pulled a hamstring on Tuesday. Then in the meet the miler got knocked down. It was terrible for the kids and we came in second in State by nine points
First good running memoryI was a 2:12 half-miler and we moved to New Hampshire because my dad was in the Air Force. I won a race in 2:18 after they cleared snow off of the track. The newspaper headline the next day was ‘Florida transfer nearly breaks track record’ of 2:16
Running heroesJim Beatty – we went to the Florida Relays and I watched Jim who ran for North Carolina
Greatest running momentI won the State meet 880 in New Hampshire in 1955. My fastest 400 was 56, but I went out in 58 seconds and held on to win in 2:10
Worst running momentAt the State meet my senior year when I was good enough to finish second or third and I ended up sixth
Childhood dreamsTo be a college football player
Funny memoriesAt the restaurant in Lake Wales one of my runners, Jon Winters, had a cheeseburger and there was a roach on his plate. All his team mates were laughing, but didn’t say anything, as no one thought he had noticed. But when the waitress stopped by to check on us, Jon said, 'I’d like another cheeseburger, but hold the roach this time.'
Embarrassing momentI was playing junior varsity football for St. Pete against Tampa Plant and I was chasing a guy to tackle him and my pants came loose and went down below my knees
Favorite places to travelDisney World when I took my kids or I’m taking my grandkids as I like seeing how happy they are. I’m not really a travelling guy except for sports. I’ve always wanted to go to the Little League World Series and to watch a Texas High School football game