Feature: Freshman Rosalind Dixon is the latest runner to benefit from the coaching styles of Darin Lasky at EUHS
By Patrick Dillon @pdillon_sgn
EXETER – Look toward the east from anywhere in Exeter and you’ll see one of the toughest training hills along the mountain range-Rocky Hill. Its steep grades have been the site of countless training routines for both amateur and professional athletes alike, as they prepare for their next competition.
So when the long distance running teams at Exeter Union High School (EUHS), which sits in its shadow, produced nine elite athletes at both the junior college and four-year levels over the last 15 years, constant training on Rocky Hill had to be the reason, right?
It is a fact that the Monarch athletes who join the cross country and track teams should not flinch when faced with a run over the top of the hill. Yet it is not used as much as people may think.
Cross Country and track head coach Darin Lasky admits that he used to incorporate the hill a lot more in order to get the results that he wanted. But with traffic increases on Spruce Avenue, which sits between the high school and the base of the hill, has deterred the use. There are also not any one-mile hills in the meets Exeter competes in.
Instead coach Lasky and coach Larry Gonzalez before him, have adapted their mission to realize a vision that goes beyond mere results. That vision can be summed up with the Monarchs relatively new training motto: Train smart, train healthy, train strong.
“Exeter always had the expectation of working hard and getting the job done,” said Lasky. “The biggest thing that we did differently than other people is that we are worried about the kids. We want them to be successful in whatever they want to do.”
In order to accomplish this coach Lasky believes a good coach needs a strong bond with his athletes. The most recent training example of that was when now D-I runner Andrea Anez was battling anemia through her sophomore and junior seasons at EUHS Instead of ignoring the condition and pushing her past what Anez could do, Lasky adapted her personal work out to fit her condition.
“You’ve got to learn to read the kids and that just comes from having a good bond with them,” said coach Lasky.
That bond extends off the course as well. Coach Lasky can remember on a number of occasions when he or one of his coaches have gone to pick up athletes from a job in order to bring them to a track meet in time to compete. There have been some occasions where a runner needs runner shoes and the coaching staff has stepped up to buy them.
“If you don’t do these things as a coach sometimes, you’re kids won’t be as successful later on,” said coach Lasky.
A lot of these coach philosophies are from his vast amounts of mentors, who have coached everything from state champions to colligate athletes, some from trial and error. Then there are some values that originate from the coach’s own running competition days.
When Lasky was 8 years old he began running and by the time he was 11 had stopped playing soccer to take up club running full time. When he entered high school he had traveled all over the country to compete in track meets.
But the traveling competitions were short lived as Lasky suffered from a multitude of issues that one-sport athletes suffer from, such as over use, over stressed, and burn out. Not to mention the mental aspect of going from a super star incoming freshman to losing to 18 year olds.
“My times were faster in middle school than as a senior,” said Lasky. “You’ve got to take the personal experience, either good or bad, from what you’ve had.”
Everything that Lasky and Gonzalez have used in the training of their runners has sent athletes up and down the state: Allison Gonzalez to Fresno State, Christian Gonzales to Sacramento State, Katie Fry to University of California at Davis, and Yesenia Silva to Brigham Young University (BYU).
Adding to the program’s list of successful runners are two track stars in Eric Gifford who went to Alabama and Melissa Leyva who went to Azusa Pacific.
Currently there are three at the college level, including two at four year colleges and one in junior college. Karina Carstens is at University of California, Berkeley and Anez is at University of California, Santa Barbara. Both are considered top runners for their respected schools. Then there is Alyssa Block who is at College of the Sequoias and ranked #3 in the state.
All that success does not mean that the talent pool has run dry in Exeter as the Monarchs have a freshman who may be better than them all. Rosalind Dixon is already running sub 20-minute times in the 5K races. Her 19:11 personal best is only 41 seconds slower then Anez’s personal best her senior season.
“I’ve been blessed, I’ve been really blessed,” said coach Lasky.