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Just call him Coach of the Year

Daily file photoChris Freud
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EAGLE-VAIL – You know, I really should be able to remember Coach Parish’s first name.I’ve only been working with the Battle Mountain cross country and track coach for three years. I had a propensity for calling Rob Parish, “Mark,” because I had Mark Parish on my fantasy baseball team when I was in high school.The other day I called him, “Lance” – I obviously knew over the phone that he was with Battle Mountain teacher Lance Pratt at the time.Mercifully, Huskies soccer coach David Cope got it right earlier this week. The 2003-04 Battle Mountain Coach of the Year, Cope presented Parish with the 2004-05 award.Very well deserved, ROB.Cope was the clear-cut choice last year. This year, this was no easy award to win. As I wrote about in Friday’s article on Huskies athletic director Fred Koetteritz resigning, his signature accomplishment has been overseeing the program’s transition from 3A to 4A.With the exception of boys soccer and a brief uptick in boys basketball, Battle Mountain teams were roadkill in 2001. This year? Take a look:– Cope himself had a great year. The boys soccer team won the Slope for the first time since 1992. The girls soccer team matched the boys with a 14-3 record and went to state for the first time.– Boys basketball had the mother of all turnarounds under Philip Tronsrue. The Huskies were 3-18 last year and 16-8 this winter. (By the way, I’ll install Tronsrue as the favorite for this award next year, but as always, no wagering, please.)

— Girls basketball made state. David Hite, take a bow.– Brian Doyon did a magnificent job avoiding some nasty parental politics in guiding Huskies volleyball to its first winning season since 1999.– All the hockey team did was go 22-1 under Andy Hire.’A positive culture’That’s some tough competition.But Cope summed up his nod for Parish nicely.”The thing that you admire about Rob’s programs is that he has a combination of numbers, results and a positive culture,” the soccer coach said. “That’s not easy to combine those things, especially in a team like track. You can just focus on your best runners and get results without the numbers. “Or you can just let anybody come, tone down the workouts and just have huge numbers and no results. But the combination of numbers, results and culture is what is really impressive, that he gets everything done.”Parish, being Parish, naturally named of a ton of names of all the coaches that helped him win the award. I’m not sure if he thanked his track coach back at his alma mater Carson High School in Nevada. I’ll have to check the tape.

“It was a great honor. I feel really fortunate for that honor,” Parish said. “Cope is definitely the standard that all of the coaches strive to emulate. It was a great honor to receive that from him.”Since Parish won’t toot his own horn, I will. The girls cross country finished fifth in the state and return all but one runner for next year. The boys had never qualified for state before. They not only qualified. They finished 11th.In the spring, the track team really showed its first signs of life since moving from 3A. Battle Mountain had two regional champions. Shea Phelan, Zach Erickson, Travis Landauer and Grant Stevenson set the school record in the 3,200-meter relay, a mark that had stood since 1992. They then broke their own record winning the regional title in Grand Junction.Chrystin Rodrick became the school’s first female regional champion since 1997, winning the 1,600 meters.Leadership styleOn the merits, Parish does deserve the award, but it’s his style that puts him over the top. This guy goes to the David Hite School of Optimism. I have never seen Parish on a day when he’s been down.That charisma has enabled him to build up numbers for sports that are a tough sell. “Hi and welcome to cross country. You’re going to run about 20-30 miles per week.” Yet they still come.With numbers comes a problem: How do you coach everybody from your horses like Rodrick and Stevenson to some of the younger, less-experienced and yes, slower runners?

I know this one well. I was a turtle on my high school cross country team. The only thing I heard from my coaches was, “Freud, hurry up and finish your race so we can get on the bus.”Parish, on the other hand, works with everybody. He turns my track stories into phone books because he wants every kid who had a personal record or a good day to get some recognition.”If a kid is willing to come out and spend time doing a sport like cross country or track which is not inherently one of the most easiest things around, the least we can do as coaches is give them our time and energy,” Parish said. “You’re going to have some kids who are great athletes and great runners. But the kids who are there to get in shape and want to have fun and want to be part of the team, they deserve just as much attention. “They just make our program stronger. I think one of the reasons our cross country and track programs are strong is because we have such dedicated athletes who’ve bought into the concept of hard work and preparation equaling results, whether that’s qualifying for state or just setting a personal record.”And for that alone, everybody should be able to remember Rob Parish’s name.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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