Clovis News: Sports

Long run ends for Buchanan coach

Heath Reedy was a gift from the Rockies, a Colorado collage of strength, endurance and fortitude, who arrived at Buchanan High as a freshman three years ago.

Macy Bricks is a junior product of the district's system that hooks athletes on running at a young age, begins to groom their talents at Alta Sierra Intermediate and then funnels them into Buchanan.

One way or another, Reedy and Bricks are Central Section champions, the most recent delivered off an assembly line of red and blue that's setting standards from Chowchilla to Bakersfield.

No one could match Fernando Cabada, Kyle Alcorn, Jonathan Sanchez and Lauren Saylor.

No one is catching the Bears' girls -- section 10-year reigning team champions in cross country.

No one is reaching their boys -- section three-year reigning team kings.

"As coaches, we really don't do anything special," Marty Simpson says.

OK, then?

"We don't push too hard, not too many miles. We just try to build a love of running so we don't burn kids out in any shape or form. And we really want to instill character; we want kids to be good people more than good runners."

Reedy, while arriving with gifts, found an entirely different level of competition at Buchanan, the area and state: "I had no idea about California; it's so much more than in Colorado. This is a big running community, and the kids are better earlier; they're a lot more prepared."

Then he points to those who nurture cubs to Bears: "The experience of our coaches definitely helps a lot."

Simpson's going-away party will be thrown today on the greatest prep long-distance running stage in the land -- the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.

His 16th and final season as Buchanan's coach finds the Bears' boys ranked fifth in the state and the girls ranked third.

He's about to wrap his arms around his wife of 40 years, Nancy, stuff some large suitcases and spend four months in Copenhagen, South Africa, Athens and Israel.

He'll not take with him a state team championship plaque, but he'll know the Bears ran with the best, and ran well.

This state gig is tough, a Junior Olympics, really.

Take last year, for example: Buchanan's boys, behind Sanchez (third), Danny Vartanian (eighth) and Reedy (13th), registered the third-best team total (77:48, five runners) in the history of Woodward Park -- a three-decade model venue in the Western United States.

Unfortunately, in the SAME race, Dana Hills-Dana Point sizzled a state-record 77:38.

Only Mead of Spokane, Wash., (77:22, Kinney West Regionals, 1993) has done better in prep annals at Woodward.

But, on the section level, no one has done better than Simpson: "I don't think I do anything special."

Yeah, we've heard that.

He has been blessed with a system that has thrived on quality depth in athletes and coaches.

Key to the district's success for 10 years was Alta Sierra coach Jason Lineau, a former Clovis High standout runner now directing Clovis North's program. He's been replaced at Alta by Dustin Beauchamp, a former Buchanan runner -- just another example of the district recycling its own.

On the varsity level, Simpson has surrounded himself with excellence in assistants Brian Weaver, James Soares and Ashley Tom.

Numbers are another key in cross country and track and field, and we're not talking about those timed on stopwatches.

Bob Fraley, the nationally acclaimed coach who recently retired at Fresno State, first established a standard-bearing program at Lemoore High by promoting the sport and cultivating depth.

At Buchanan, the competition for bodies is intense.

Understand, this is a school that has also won section titles this fall in boys water polo and girls tennis, is favored to land another in football, and just missed in a few others.

It's made possible because this is a school that has roughly 1,000 students, more than a third of its enrollment, participate in athletics.

In cross country, Simpson says -- again -- "We just set up workouts, nothing special."

Not true, coach. It's been special, indeed.

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