Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Vol. 3 No. 48 A Tribute to the Coach- Darryl Taylor
I received this letter today from one of Darryl Taylor's former runners. A testimony to someone who gave his time, energy, and talent to many, many others. Congratulations , Darryl.
My name is Mark Field. Every once in a while I'll make an effort to look up someone who influenced my life. Today I decided to look up my old high school track coach, Darryl Taylor. Coach Taylor was my track & field coach from 1964 to 1968 & cross country coach for the first three years (I let some friends talk me into wrestling my senior year, to my regret) at Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove, CA. What was so great about coach Taylor was that he never got down on you. He was always positive, always expecting greater & greater results out of us. The coach was a gifted runner himself. He ran mostly 880 yds & lots of relays while at Long Beach State. During cross country season, he ran ALL of our workouts with us. And we DID work out. If memory serves me, on Monday, Wednesday & Friday it was either sprint drills on the football field for an hour, 220yd drills (25 times half way around opposing girls softball backstops, usually at 27 seconds pace, with a diagonal jog in between), or various middle distance drills. Then Tuesday & Thursday it was distance running (usually between 10-15 mi at varying pacing & occasional rests when running the longer distances). Then we usually met up somewhere on Saturday to run. Sometimes we would run in the sand & water in Huntington Beach, along the railroad tracks from our school to rival Santiago High School & then back about 13 miles, in the hills of Irvine Park for about 3 mi or sometimes around the cross country course at Long Beach State. Oh yeah. Coach Taylor also got a lot of us guys to join the 49er Track Club that he belonged to. It was VERY cool because sometimes there would be meetings of club members & other track stars & we were allowed to attend. I can remember meeting great athletes like Ralph Boston, Adolph Plummer, Mike Larrabee & Ollan Cassel. With coach Taylor encouraging me, in 3 years I went from running two miles in about 13 min to nearly breaking 10 min. And I was only running cross country for the conditioning for track & field later in the school year. We did have a few good runners who pushed coach Taylor in the workouts. My first two years it was Roger Seymour. My junior year it was Tom Baird. Tom was airless better than Roger S I recall. He ran around about a 4:18 mile I think & around 9:20 for two miles. Don was always trying to beat the coach. It was all great fun, even through all the sweat. My best times at Rancho Alamitos High School were in cross country & track. i had a lot of good friends. Sid Williams was my nest track buddy. he was REALLY talented. He was very fast but best of all he could JUMP! He long jumped about 23' 5" as a junior & he was a little guy like me. I remember he blew his knee out fooling around one day at Long Beach State. He wasn't warmed up & he tried to triple jump & his knee gave out. I think if that hadn't happened he probably would have gone 24' or better in the long jump. Sadly, the summer after we graduated, we were going to go hunting as I had gotten a shot gun for a graduation present. I can't remember why but I couldn't go. Richard Hibbs, a great hurdler who went to Rancho his freshman year & then Pacifica, took his corvette convertible & Sid rode with him. I heard there were a bunch of other guys in other cars going. On the way up some winding road Richard lost control & rolled his corvette. Sid was thrown out & the car rolled over him, killing him instantly. I've never cried harder in my whole life. Sid was the best buddy a guy could ever want & I'll never ever forget him. On a more positive note, my funniest memory with coach Taylor happened during the first week of my freshman year in track. I was primarily a high jumper, having to learn the straddle roll instead of the scissors style. Coach Taylor had a policy. Freshmen were NOT allowed to pole vault. NO EXCEPTIONS! Unbeknownst to coach Taylor, some friends & I had made a crude crossbar setup in my backyard the summer before I started high school & I was clearing about 9 1/2 feet using a skinny rigid bamboo pole with no box to plant the pole in & without a landing pit! I had to land on my feet on the grass. I think it was maybe the second week of track practice. I saw that the pole vault bar was set at about 10 feet. No one was around the pit or the runway. I saw some poles just lying there & coach Taylor looked like he was occupied with some other guys throwing the shot or something on the other side of the field. So I ran over, picked up a pole, guessed at where to hold the pole & where to start my run. Off I went! Just as I'm about to plant my pole, I hear this loud NOOOO!!! It was the coach but I was too far into the jump to stop. So up I went. I think I cleared the bar by at least a foot. So the coach runs over, looks at me, then up at the bar & then says "well I guess you're a pole vaulter". It was too funny! Unfortunately, I never was able to really excel at vaulting. For one thing, I was a little guy at only 5'6" & 130 lbs. For another, the school budget was limited and the few vaulting poles we had were for the varsity guys weighing 160-180 lbs. As hard as I tried, I could not get any of the poles to bend. The fact that they were fiberglass meant nothing. I would have gone the same height with a bamboo pole or an aluminum one. And the last obstacle was the landing pit. Oh it WAS better than landing on my grass but not by much. Our landing pit was sawdust, just like our high jump pit. So I still had to land on my feet. My highest vault was about 12'. With a lighter weight pole that I could bend & a foam landing pit, who knows what I might have accomplished. As for my high jumping, the Fosbury Flop came along too late for me & I couldn't have utilized it anyway until the sawdust was replaced with foam. So, at 5'6", I managed to clear 5'10". I'm thinking maybe 5 or 6 more inches with the new style & a foam pit. Still, coach Taylor was very proud of me & all of the other guys who gave it their all. That's all coach Taylor ever expected from us. To give it our very best. He used to give out coupons for a burger, fries & a drink at McDonalds for anyone who placed in a meet. Of course, in the mid sixties, that was worth about 45 cents. My dad was a mean alcoholic who never once attended any high school competition I was ever entered in but I didn't let that get me down because I had coach Taylor to instill in me a positive attitude about hard work & about life. For that, I am eternally grateful to him. The last time I saw coach Taylor was at the Mt. SAC Relays around 1974 or 75. I had just sat down on the bleachers. All of a sudden, I hear this voice that I know from somewhere. I turned around & there he was, coach Taylor, sitting directly behind me. Sitting next to him was Mr. Callard the varsity football coach & my former math teacher for algebra, geometry & trig. On the other side of the coach was Mr. Tracy Strong, my former principal. It was quite a reunion, to say the least. I don't think I ever enjoyed track meet more than I did that day and that's saying a lot because I went to six days of track & field at the 84' Olympics in Los Angeles. Seeing coach Taylor once more was like seeing my grandparents back from the dead. I see that he continued to coach at Rancho Alamitos until 2004 & then couldn't stay away & came back for some more. That doesn't surprise me in the least. Coach LOVED track & field & running & he loved coaching kids. The pamphlet that coach Taylor puts out doesn't surprise me either. He was always documenting our efforts one way or another. He also used to give us old copies of the original Track & Field News before it was a real magazine with a cover. I ended up getting a subscription so I could read them all the time. I hope the coach is doing well. I can still hear his laugh. He's one of a kind.