Thursday, February 26, 2015

v 5 n 14 A Good Second Opinion on McFarland

Here is a second opinion of our review of the film McFarland.  It more than shows that we can look at films from more than one side of the street and come away with very different views.  Thanks for sending this, John.  Actually now there are several second opinions and some stats about the California state cross country meets.

Dear George and Roy:

I had a far different reaction to the movie:

With all it's flaws for the serious runner "I loved this movie!"

1). Kevin's Costner's "Coach White" is a real story of  true redemption!

2). Coach White's family struggles are the kind of struggles that many American Families go through and I applaud those who overcome family struggles.
3). Coach White and his family's "integration" into the McFarland Community was a touching story to me about how special individuals
overcome racial and cultural divides, even their own. 
It's a real American Story of cultural acceptance !
Look back guys!  Haven't we come so far in the past fifty years!
This story probably would not have happened in the 1950's or 60's when many of us went to school!

4). This is  a story of a real coach dedicating his life to his team and making a huge difference
in the loves of young people. I could be a basketball team, girls volleyball team, a debate team
or a little league team. Teachers and coaches make big difference in the lives of their athletes when they are dedicated as Coach White was.

5). If you stay for the credits and discover that 6 of 7 young men on that first team went on to college, 
got degrees and some came back and  later served at their high school and community was very uplifting to me.

6). The various scenes of these kids getting up  to work in the
fields before schools and then sometimes after school and workouts are real.

7). I have friends who carp and carp about Mexican/Hispanic illegals 
but, I can tell you that none of us and none of our kids will perform the backbreaking work these immigrant people do 
to put food on out tables      My kids never did, I could never get them to work at a McDonald's
(My two girls, however, worked at In-N Out Burgers which pays better)
(And, Kevin, work for a Moving Company.)
The depiction of Kevin Costner going out to the fields and working with 
his kids until he collapsed is true to life.!! It's backbreaking work.

 I went into the movie with these biases (And fondnesses)

1). I had met the McFarland Coach when he brought his team to the
     Camarillo high School Relays where my kids ran track and I helped out
     at the Invitational. circa 2002-2008.  One year a McFarland boy was
     Athlete of the Meet in our night relay invitational
2). I knew that they won 9 Division 4 State Championships.
3). I read this story in Sports Illustrated 8-10 years ago.
     (I'll have to see if I can dig out the Issue somewhere. I think I saved it.
4). When I make my sales trip up Hwy. 99 and go past McFarland  I think of these teams. 
     I also think of Tommie Smith when I go by the sign: "Lemoore, CA."
5). I do not go into the movie expecting the high state of reality
     that many serious runners will have or did have. 
6). The reviews on www.metacritic while stating that it was a little
     "soapy" they credited Kevin Costner with a great performance
     and with it's uplifting story. And it's trueness to real life.

Now, things I saw as unrealistic and stretching the facts, were as follows:

1). Did  they really win the first State Championship they qualified for?
     I can check this for you. (My friend Tom Trumpler would know)  
     I'm guessing that it took 2-3 years to get there.
2). "First ever California State Cross Country Championship?????
      We had State Championship in XC when I coached at Aviation HS in
     Manhattan Beach in 1967, maybe, it was the first Div. 4 State Championship ?  Again, Tom Trumpler, what say?
3). The courses were far tougher than those that I remember or have seen.
     The final race was actually set in Griffith Park, LA.where I do not believe
      any XC races are contested.
      The site of the  Palo Alto Invitational is run mostly on a golf course
      near Palo Alto /Stanford area. Not on the "Goat hill's" the movie depicts.
      I imagine that these sites were chosen for the convenience of the 
      filming crew and where they could get enough volunteer runners.
4).  Showing 6 teams at the Palo Alto Invitational in shrinking the actual
      fact re: this meet.  Maybe 6-7 team in a division 4 race.
      But. Div. 1 or 2 race  would probably have 20-30 teams each.
5).  Showing McFarland running against Palo Alto High, was it Los Altos 
      High, and Centennial HS would not happen since they are division 1
6).  Winning their 2nd dual meet ever against Clovis H.S. would not happen. 
Clovis is a strong Div. 1 schools who host the Calif. State
      Championships every year in Track. Probably, they defeated some where along the line
      later on they defeated a Clovis HS team.
7).  Yes, "no fatty" like their depiction of their 7th. man would make a
      bona fide cross country team as 7th man but, he made his point In the
       movie for the public. It's too bad they couldn't find a guy like Max Truex
       who was Stocky for a world class runner.) Even Vladmir Kuts was not
        built like a classic distance runner, also Herb Elliott,
        Pre was built as much like a wrestler as a  distance runner
        Give the movie a break. And maybe the young man didn't
        in reality pass 50 runners in fifty yards but, I dare say that in reality
        they had a seventh man who came out as a fatty and by the time they
        won their  first championship he saved the day with his gutty, near 
        heroic finish


Guys, I hope that you will look at this movie about a coach and his 20 year coaching career with 9 Division 4 State Championship as a compression of
those years into one great story spanning one (Or, was it two years) into a 
uplifting story of success.

Maybe even one or two of you will have a few tears in your eyes as I did.

John Bork
WMU - Class of 1961

And This Review from Darryl Taylor

Greetings George and Roy!
Hi Guys-I agree that everyone goes to this film with a different set of expectations. After seeing the terrible racing scenes in UNBORKEN I was somwhat relieved to see a handful of authentic running types depicted here.Records will show that in 1957 there was an effort to host a  California CIF Cross-Country State Championship. It was held in Merced and shares McFarland's proximity to California State Hiway 99. As a member of Excelsior High School's cross-country team, and having placed 2nd in the CIF Finals that year, our team qualified to travel to Merced for what was promised to be a yearly event to crown the top cross country team in the state. Being only a junior I was unaware of the historic towns we passed along the way to Merced, towns that would contribute to Track & Field lore in the past and in years to come.
Bakersfield:   site of Jim Ryan's world record mile
McFarland:  the setting of this film
Tulare:  home of Bob Mathias, decathlon great
Fresno: home to Dutch Warmerdam and host city of the long running West Coast Relays
            (I wonder how many of your readers have a "West Coast Relays" belt buckle among their collection
Kingsburg:  home of the great Rafer Johnson
Modesto:  site of the California Relays for years
In 1957 there were no rules regarding what type of shoes you wore in competition. Spikes, flats or bare feet were all possible choices back then. Coming from Southern California it was not uncommon to have half our team racing without shoes. What we were not prepared for were the icy conditions facing us at the Merced Country Club. The swimming pool was covered with a thin layer of ice as we warmed up and the golf course was sprinkled with frozen water drops from the watering the night before all due to temperature in the mid 30's. Jack Hudson, who would later star for the University of Arizona, won the race over Compton High School's Woody Covington, a miler who would anchor Compton's Distance Medley Relay to a National HS record of 10:17 during the up coming track season. Third place went to sophomore Sal Rameriz of El Rancho High School in Montebello who just outlasted Excelsior's top runner Art Pitman, a Junior who a few short months prior to this race was ranked 10th in the nation by Track & Field News as a sophomore at 4:28.4. How things have changed. El Cajon was the team champion with 46 points ahead of Los Angeles Garfield HS (95) and Excelsior (103).
For reasons unknown to me, this championship meet was not repeated for some time, with perhaps another stab at making it happen in the mid 60's. Even into the early 80's when my own high school teams placed among the top 3-4 teams in CIF there was not state meet that I was aware of so perhaps the stated 1987 1st Annual State XC Championships has some basis in truth.
In the end, this movie provided me with the perfect opportunity to E-mail my former runners as we met on the Saturday it opened to watch the movie together. Former runners spanned the years 1967 to 2011 and by far the majority opinion was that it was a better than average story, regardless of the fat boy Danny Diaz saving the day for the team in the final race of the season. All in all, I think I share John Bork's opinion of the film. The scene where Coach White takes the team to the Pacific Ocean for their first ever visit to the beach, was something I experienced many times with my own teams. I also felt a deep seated tug when White finally earned the title "COACH" from his runners, a word that in many instances can be compared with the word "DAD" in its depth of meaning.
Hollywood has always had a difficult time creating authentic scenes of running and racing. This film does not break new ground on that score.

George - a few comments on previous posts re: "McFarland".  Not really much about the movie - re: John Bork's post - I went to Camarillo High School, grad in '68 - prior to the Cam Distance carnival.  But a few things - XC in 1967 took place at  LB State where there were only 3 divisions - no state meet was held then.  LB was the site for a number of years when it moved to Mt Sac in mid 70s(?).  State meet was instituted ... (not sure).  I wish they would have had a state meet in 67.  I know there are others from that era and before who would have welcomed the opportunity.

And yet another reply.
The previous post mentioned XC runners not being able to play and or excel in any sport other than the lumbering XC guys.  I have at least one brother who could have played football or baseball at any upper division (called University then) program and likely played pro.  We 'played' those sports with a guy who was recruited by USC to be their quarterback and was the #1 draft pick in Baseball.  He chose baseball, my brother was better than him in both sports - but CHOSE to run track, had hanker-in to try the others but was busy winning races in So CAL and at State and Natl levels.  Have another brother who had a 40+ vertical, who ran XC before going over to the dark side (- football and basketball). It bugs me a bit to dismiss all runners as uncoordinated geeks.  I am sure it is grossly untrue - across the board.  I have heard that Steve Scott was an excellent pitcher.   There are numerous examples of outstanding athletes running distance in XC and distance races in T&F.  Well enuff said.  


Here are Factual Stats and info -  from my good friend Tom Trumpler.
As Meet Director for the Camarillo HS Relay Invitational (Run on Friday evening
before the full track meet on Saturday). In Tom's postion as meet director he had
much contact with Coach White and the other coaches who entered Relay Teams
both on the phone and then when they arrived at the meet.

The only thing that Tom did not clarify is when California began hosting State Championships in Cross Country.

As I look at Tom's Stats the only thing that seems to make the movie's assertion that it was the First Ever State Meet in California
is that it appears to be the first year of a division 4 Championship in 1990  However, McFarland didn't win that race they won the 1990
Division 3 Championship. 

Thanks for editing my McFarland Comments!


Buck, Legend & Charley,

I wasn't aware of an attempt to start a California state X-C championship in 1957, but we applaud whoever spear headed the idea.

The CIF State office has run a state championship in X-C since 1987, see attached PDF and McFarland info below.
McFarland won 9 state championships from 1987 thru 2001.

Buck, Aviation was CIF Southern Section X-C champion in 1959 and 1964.
In the 1964 championship run at Long Beach State there were four divisions (AAA, AA, A, Small Schools).

California CIF State X-C Championships:

1987- 1989  -  Three Divisions
1990- 1995  -  Four Divisions
1996- present  - Five Divisions

McFarland Boys at CIF State X-C Championships, 1987 thru 2009:

1987 -  1st,  Division 3
1988 -  5th,  Division 3
1989 -  2nd,  Division 3
1990 -  DNP (in top 5 at least)
1991 -  DNP (in top 5 at least)
1992 -  1st,  Division 4
1993 -  1st,  Division 4
1994 -  1st,  Division 4
1995 -  1st,  Division 4
1996 -  1st,  Division 5
1997 -  4th,  Division 4
1998 -  5th,  Division 4
1999 -  1st,  Division 4
2000 -  1st,  Division 4
2001 -  1st,  Division 4
2002 -   DNP (in top 5 at least)
2003 -   3rd,  Division 4
2004 -   DNP (in top 5 at least)
2005 -   5th,  Division 4
2006 -   4th,  Division 4
2007 -   3rd,  Division 4
2008 -   2nd, Division 4
2009 -   2nd, Division 4

Be sure to "search" the PDF file for Camarillo.
In 1989, Cam High was Division 1 champ, and ranked "National Champions" by Harrier Magazine.
Ask Charley, he was there in 1989!!!

For a more detailed history of California state high school cross country champions, please refer to the site below.
Thanks to Tom Trumpler for connecting us to this site.

From Bill Schnier:   
I  just read the Sports Illistrated article from 1964 about McFarland, wanting to do so before I saw the movie which Kathy and I will see in a few hours.  It was exceedingly well written but difficult to see all the words with all that water in my eyes.  I can think of very few lives being better lived that that of Mr. White and I will approach the movie not from the suspension of belief characteristic of so many sports movies but rather the much more important aspects of human relations and coaching at its best which is helping get people where they want to go, even if they can't always see where they want to go.       Bill

March 3

Hello again George and Roy-here is an additional bit of information regarding McFarland USA. The article is written by Jose Cardenas, the young man who started out too fast and died in the State Meet Championships that were depicted in the movie. He essentially corroborates the events in that state meet where Dany Diaz, one of their slowest runners, saved the day by taking Jose's place in the top 5 scorers on the team. There was also some question about the location of the 1987 state meet which was filmed in Griffith Park for the film. In reality, according to Cardenas, the competition was held at Woodward Park which continues to this day as the site of California State XC Championships. Here is a link to the article as it appeared in today's (Monday, March 2nd) Los Angeles Times. Cardenas, once a writer for the LA Times relates his feelings about that competition nearly 30 years ago.
Cheers from Souther California where there was snow covering the Huntington Beach Pier and Plaza today! Go figure.
Darryl Taylor

From the Delano (CA) Record  Feb. 26, 2015

McFarland honors Coach and Mrs. Jim White

PictureRetired Coach and Mrs. Jim White flank a bronze plaque honoring them, at Thursday’s green space dedication.

By Bob Cane
Staff Writer

A large part of McFarland turned out, Thursday, to dedicate a green space that will be a central  feature of the community’s planned up-grading of its main downtown shopping and activities area  to retired track and field Coach and Mrs. Jim White.

In doing so, the community is recognizing not only what the Whites have contributed to the  past, but to the future, City Manager John Wooner said. It is that future to which the city council referred, a few years ago, which it authorized the addition of the image of a runner to the city logo, he said.

White, who is credited with building and inspiring a track and field team which brought multiple championships to a community which had little to be proud of, represents that type of faith in the future of McFarland and its youth, the city manager told a crowd gathered at the recently completed gazebo area at Kern Ave, and Frontage Road.

The event also featured the unveiling of a bronze plaque honoring the Whites. White and his teams are the subjects of a movie that the Disney Company was slated to release to theaters on Valentines Day or a few days later.

White taught in the McFarland schools for 24 years. “If you are old enough, I probably had you in school, and if your kids are old enough, I probably had your kids,” the ex-coach said.

“I thank God that I have had this opportunity to be here,” and to work with McFarland youth, he continued. And he didn’t do it alone, he added. His wife, he said, has been like a mom to all his teams, “and has been by my side for 40 years.”

White said he hopes the dedication and all the attention paid to the success story of the track teams will be a “positive inspiration” for McFarland, and drew attention to the new motto on the city logo: “Tradition. Unity, Excellence.”

“That is what is going on in our community, that is what McFarland is most proud of,” he said.   

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V 8 N. 52 Some Kids are Really Showing the Veterans a New Twist on the Sport

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