Steamboat Springs For as long as Steamboat Springs High School cross-country coach Greg Long can remember, running has been an integral part of his life.
Whether it was winning Junior Olympics national championships, accepting a full-ride athletic scholarship or guiding kids with his passion in his role as head coach, Long virtually has lived and breathed running.
And since Long’s last Steamboat Sailor crossed the finish line in Thursday's regional championship, the coaching part has ceased to exist — for now — but running won’t.
After some prodding from his wife, Jill, to look for new employment in the Pacific Northwest and be closer to their college-aged daughter, Long accepted a manager role with his company, First Cal, in Portland, Ore. It was a fortuitous bounce of opportunity, Long said.
His wife already has made the jump to Oregon, and Long, staying behind to finish the Sailors' season in their almost-bare Steamboat home, will join her shortly.
Long said he will miss Steamboat, an area he has called home for years now, and he will miss running with his understudies, spreading his passion for the sport along the way.
“It’s not on my horizon right now,” Long said about coaching again. “I’ll miss it, definitely. Just interacting with the kids, they keep you young and it’s fun.”
Forged in a Southern California shoe shop where he worked while training for the Olympic Trials in the late 1980s, Long got his first taste of coaching by showing some adults the ropes.
Long took over the Sailors track and field program eight years ago and began heading up the cross-country team a few years back when Andy Reust departed. The cross-country program never was noticeably strong in numbers, he said, but getting teenagers to try the sport and even compete at the collegiate level is the ultimate testament to his coaching success.
He recalls a story of converting a pair of girls soccer players into cross-country runners, and by the end of their first meet, they had a much different perspective about distance running.
“They came out and they ran their first meet, and they were just buried by how hard the workouts were compared to soccer,” Long said. “At the end of the first meet, another coach overheard the kids say, ‘How are we going to get out of this? How can we quit? This is way too hard.’”
Today, Long said with a beaming smile, the pair loves running after taking their talents to the college level and now are competing in half- and full marathons.
It’s that enthusiasm for running grueling distances that assistant coach Erik Ramstad said makes Long’s infectious personality something current and future Sailors runners surely will miss.
“He’s super passionate about running,” said Ramstad, who is slated to take over the program next year. “He absolutely loves the sport and the kids. He’s super fun to be around and makes every practice great.”
Long is confident the program is in good hands with Ramstad leading the way and a newly established middle school distance program stimulating runners’ interest early.
The coaching thing never might happen again, but he is looking forward to running alongside his daughter in Portland. Ramstad said Long will be high on his speed-dial list as he grooms in his first head coaching venture.
“I’ll be as involved as they want me to be,” Long said.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll
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