Ty Brown figures he has three of the toughest jobs out there.
“I’m out there trying to get kids to want to read, write and run,” Brown jokes. “Not exactly the kinds of things 14- to 18-year-old kids are interested in doing.”
Brown is the new cross country coach at West Valley where he’s also an English and social studies teacher.
And he’s used to that. Brown spent five seasons as head cross country and head track and field coach at Colville. Before that he was an assistant cross country coach at Mead while he did his student teaching. His running pedigree goes back to legendary Mead coach Pat Tyson.
Brown said he took a teaching job at Colville once he finished his student teaching and fell into the coaching job.
“I got there and found out the head track coach had just retired and kind of stumbled into that job,” he said. “When you coach track at a smaller school, you have to do everything.”
The same scenario essentially played out at West Valley.
“My wife and I started looking around for a chance to get back to Spokane,” he said. “I knew the cross country job at West Valley was going to open up because Bob Barbero was going to retire, but I applied for the teaching opening first. Once they posted the cross country job, I put in my application.
“In fact, when they called me to tell me I got the teaching job, they asked me to come in the next day for an interview for the coaching job.”
Brown follows in the footsteps of a pair of legends in the sport in Jim McLachlan and Barbero – both members of the state hall of fame and winners of state championships.
“I’ve had great conversations with both of them,” Brown said. “Even though Jim is busy helping his son coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane and Bob is busy helping his son coach the team at University, they’ve both taken time to talk with me and offer some insights.”
Barbero stayed on after his official retirement to help set up a summer running program for the Eagles before Brown was hired in July – a process that had to wait until the school hired Jamie Nilles as athletic director after Wayne McKnight retired.
Brown said he had a good, core group of runners workout together over the summer and has a solid group of boys, led by No. 1 runner Skylar Ovnicek.
“Right now we have some space behind our No. 1 runner,” Brown said. “Our No. 2 is about a minute back and then we fall off from there. Our No. 1 runner is significantly faster than the No. 1 runner from Deer Park, but their strength is that their top five runners are all faster than our No. 2 right now. That’s what cross country is all about.”
Brown said his girls group is a little thin – an obstacle made more difficult by the fact that the girls soccer and volleyball teams field four squads: a varsity, junior varsity, C squad and freshman teams.
“I think we have to do a better job of reaching out to some of those kids,” Brown said. “I’m sure there are some girls sitting on the bench for the C squad who could easily be starting on the varsity cross country team.
“I know there are kids who like to say they don’t like to run, but they play soccer and probably run just as much as our cross country kids do.”
Brown said he has a four-year plan already mapped out.
“I do think it takes four years to really get your program where you want it to be,” he said. “I keep telling our seniors this year that they’re not going to be around to see the fruits of what they’re doing because they’re going to be long gone by the time it comes together.
“I think my next step is to go down to the middle school and talk to the parents there and explain to them that kids who run cross country tend to be smarter, tend to be better students and tend to be great student leaders.”