On a typical rainless day in Pasco, the two Issaquah teams came to do their best at the 2017 state meet. It was a little chilly but dry day and the course was in excellent shape.
The girls ran first finishing third behind Lewis and Clark and Camas. Led by the All-State finishes of Kenna Clawson (8th) and Sami Corman (9th), the girls had solid races. As defending state champions, they experienced the feeling of having a “target” on their backs. They raced well and look forward to next week’s Nike Cross Regional Northwest 2017 race in Boise.
The boys ran the final race of the day and saved their best performance of the year for this meet. Led by Luke George’s All-State 9th place finish, the team placed 6th out of the 16 qualifying teams, an improvement over their 2016 9th place finish. Five of the seven runners had lifetime personal records. As a team, it does not get much better than that! A shout-out to Sam Griffith who broke 16:00 for the first time placing 26th. The boys team will also be competing next weekend in Boise.
It has been some time since we updated the Distance Runner Hall of Fame. But over the past few years of XC we have had some stand out distance runners. So it seemed like NOW was an appropriate time to select some new inductees into the prestigious Issaquah High School Distance Runner Hall of Fame.
The three inductees are:
Cayla Seligman, Class of 2015
Cayla began her freshman year of cross-country as a member of the first Issaquah girls team to qualify to the Cross Country State Championship meet in 13 years, placing 100th; she placed 62nd the year after. On the track, Cayla specialized in the 1600m and 3200m. She was a 4-time KingCo qualifier in the 1600m, finishing no worse than 7th at the championships; her best place was 2nd, her junior year. Read Caylas’ full bio…
Jacob Brueckman, Class of 2016
In cross-country, Jacob Brueckman was an athlete who showed steady improvement as he PR’d from his freshman to his senior year. He went from an 18:12 mark as a freshman to a 15:51 mark as a senior, which stands as his personal best for 5000m on grass. Jacob’s true strength was on the track in the middle-distance events. He qualified for the KingCo Championships three years in a row in the 800m, from his sophomore to his senior year; he placed 3rd during his junior and senior years, subsequently qualifying for the District Championships for two years in a row. Jacob left Issaquah with a PR of 1:56.45, which is currently # 6 all-time. Read Jacob’s full bio…
Kennan Schrag, Class of 2016
As an Issaquah freshman, Kennan Schrag qualified for the varsity XC squad in the team time trial, dropped his first 5,000-meter time of 18:45.0 to a season record 16:38.0, and qualified as an individual to the Bi-District 4A XC Championships. Ongoing improvement throughout his years at Issaquah resulted in a 5,000-meter personal best of 15:21.0 in his senior year. In track, Kennan focused his efforts on the 1600m and the 3200m. Freshman season bests of 4:32.4 and 9:47.4 dropped year-over-year to 4:17.47 and 9:13.98, earning the #7 and #1 positions on the Issaquah All-Time Best lists. Read Kennan’s full bio…
Many meet records were set this past weekend, and although Issaquah didn’t capture one (although the girls 4×200 did break the past meet record along with Union and Tahoma) , the team had some individuals PR’s, as well as School Records.
Joe – cleared 6’3 in the High Jump for 6th place
Joey – 155’3 for 4th place in the discus
Siarfo – 7th place finish in the Long Jump with a leap of 17’9 3/4
Luke – placed 10th in the 800 prelims
Sami – took 4th place in the 800m 2:13.39
Elise – placed 3rd in the 400 56.90
Mackenzie – placed 7th in the 400 59.96
Nikki – took 4th in the 200 with a PR of 24.45 and breaking the SCHOOL RECORD by .09
Siarfo – 5th place finish in the 100H 14.94 after setting a PR in the prelims 14.76
Nikki – set a NEW SCHOOL RECORD in the 100H prelims 14.25
4×200 team of Siarfo, Mackenzie, Elise and Nikki bettered the SCHOOL RECORD with a 3rd place finish of 1:38.93
4×400 team of Mackenzie, Katie, Sami and Elise finished 3rd with a time of 3:53.70
4×400 boys team of Spencer, Garrett, Luke and Joe finished 4th with a time of 3:26.3
Joe – placed 4th in the Long Jump with a PR of 22’9
Nikki – placed 6th in the High Jump at 5’2
Kenna – took home 9th place in the 3200 in a time of 11:23.5
Today, Gwen Robertson, Issaquah High School’s most-esteemed Cross Country and Track & Field Coach, was awarded the Brooks Inspiring Coach of the Year 2017. Brooks believes that coaches are the torchbearers for running, the mentors and the true inspiration for millions of runners. The Brooks award comes with $10,000 in Brooks performance apparel, accessories and/or shoes for their teams, and $2000 cash and a membership to the Brooks Inspire Daily program for the following year.
Tracy Silva, co-head coach, nominated Gwen, confessing, “I was mostly motivated by the prize as the team really needs uniforms. Our team is the largest it’s ever been and we don’t have enough uniforms for all of our kids.” The reality is Gwen has made a profound impact on Tracy, “Gwen played a significant role in my life. She was more than a coach, she was a teacher, counselor, a missing parent, and the sister I never had.”
In fact, she has been the inspiration for over 20 other former Issaquah High runners who chose to pay it forward and enter the coaching profession. Kris Roof (1991 – 1995) says, “Gwen was much more than just a coach to me as she and her husband, Lawrie, provide paternal influence, positive energy and were always the bright spot in my day. I am in my 15th year coaching High School Cross Country and Track and Field teams and strive to model my program after Gwen’s by fostering a positive environment.”
“I was a bit of a troublemaker”, says Chris Brasino. “It wasn’t until I started coaching alongside Gwen that I realized how hard it must have been to deal with me. I grew to understand and respect that Gwen cares deeply for each runner on her team—even the ones that cause headaches.”
Countless other former athletes say “She was like a mom to me”, “She never gave up on me”, “I owe a lot to her”, “She got me through High School”.
Gwen has received five significant lifetime career awards within 6 years—more proof of her value as a coach among her peers and athletes. After the girls XC team won the state championships last Fall, she was awarded the 2016 Washington State Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year by the US Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, She is a 2 time WIAA Hall of Famer, having been inducted into the Track and Field Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015 and Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2013. She is also a Pacific Northwest Track and Field Association President’s 2012 award winner.
So, who is Gwen Robertson and what led her to this legendary coaching career? Gwen is the daughter of two teachers/principal and always wanted to be an educator like her parents. She had a successful running career through college and national team race walking career after college. Gwen majored in PE and minored in math as well as earning a coaching credential. She met her husband, Lawrie Robertson, at a track meet. He is likely her biggest fan. Lawrie sees Gwen as a partner to each athlete’s development and he describes her as being in the “life-changing business.”
As with many successful people, Gwen had three key mentors that she learned from and that gave her inspiration along the way. Peter Thompson was her coach early on in her car and has been her lifelong coaching mentor since the early 80’s. He was the first person to guide her in planning a season-long workout schedule. They remain good friends, attending numerous track and field championships. Her second mentor is Terry Kirkpatrick, who she officiated with at the UW and was the one responsible for recruiting her to come out and volunteer at Issaquah High School over 30 years ago. He taught her all the mechanics of coaching such as how to place kids in meets when there was no such thing as Athletic.net. And the third, was Pat “Hattie” Hatmaker, who was an icon at Issaquah. Gwen coached with Hattie for about 15 years and learned a lot from her as she had an innate coaching ability. One of the key things that resonated with Gwen early on was that there were more than just the top athletes to consider. That is not something many coaches think about or do.
Tracy sums it up, “Gwen was more than a coach, but a teacher of the sport. She taught us to focus on what we could control, as opposed to the external factors that we couldn’t control. That made us more confident and better performers. Her gift to us as athletes was to allow us to figure out how we could get better. She helped by guiding us to the solution, but we were ultimately responsible for our own self-reflection. If we failed, what did we learn? What could we do differently next time to change the outcome? She is incredibly supportive win or lose, just give it your best, that is all she asked of us.”
No surprise, Gwen’s coaching philosophies are consistent. They are really quite simple, but ‘run’ deep:
You can’t want it more than the kids. It’s what they bring from talent to motivation. Each kid is there for their own reasons and I’m there to serve all of them.
Just don’t quit. I don’t give up. I’m too stubborn to give up. I don’t want the kids to give up either. I believe that there is always a way to figure things out.
Listen first. I am an “observational” coach. I listen to athletes, parents, other coaches and I watch.
I teach the kids to reflect and learn. I give them the tools to think through what they can do to improve or make things better.
Athletes should run for themselves first, then for their team. It has to be something they want to do.
Coaching has never been about the awards or recognition for Gwen, “it has always been about teaching all the athletes, not just the top athletes, life skills to be able to move on into adulthood and to teach them that running is not who you are, it’s what you do.” And that is why she is the 2017 Brooks Inspiring Track Coach of the Year.
One boys coach and one girls coach from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia were honored for their successes during the fall of 2016, as selected by a committee of experts from around the nation.
State-by-state winners were selected based on their teams’ performances throughout the 2016 cross country season. Among the factors taken into consideration were team score and placement at the state championships, margin of victory, performance against rankings if available, individual championships, and how their teams’ performances stacked up to previous years (e.g. first title in school history, consecutive titles, etc.).
Each honoree will receive a trophy from the USTFCCCA recognizing his or her achievements.
While this award was based on team performance, we are truly blessed with the best coach in the state. Gwen started coaching at Issaquah High School in 1983 as a volunteer in cross country and track and field. Gwen has served as either assistant or head coach for the last 33 years at Issaquah. Her boys XC teams claimed 7 league championships, with 2 back to back in 2015 & 2016. Her girls teams have won 12 league championships and has had 4 state titles, with the fourth in 2016.
Coaching for Gwen started at Issaquah H.S. in 1983 as a volunteer in cross country and track and field. Gwen has served the role of either assistant or head coach for the last 29-years at Issaquah. Her boys’ teams claimed five league titles and her girls’ teams nine. Her girls’ teams won three state titles in the mid 1980’s.
Gwen retired from head coach of Track and Field in 2016 to become a volunteer but continues to devote her time to Issaquah Cross Country as head coach.