Running legacies live on at Placer, Del Oro

PVL Pipeline
By: Dave Krizman Journal Sports Columnist
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Over the last 15 years, two schools, Placer High and Del Oro, a mere 10 miles apart, have dominated the prep cross country scene. The number of championships, team and individual, these two schools have amassed are staggering. Because cross country runs its meets in the afternoon in relative obscurity, most area sports fans are not aware of the stunning success of these two programs. Combined, Placer and Del Oro boys and girls have won 18 Sac-Joaquin Section titles and 16 individual championships. By any account, the above numbers reflect a long running dynasty. Randall Fee, head coach of Placer’s program since 2002, attributes the success to three main reasons: Great feeder programs, training in the American River Canyon, and the tradition of both programs that motivates current runners. Certainly, all three are important reasons for the success of both schools, but, first and foremost, Fee is the primary reason for Placer’s success. Shannon Harcus, who graduated from Placer last year, and is on scholarship for cross country at UC Davis, attributes most of the success to Fee. “He is an amazing coach,” Harcus said. “He is passionate about running, and he connects this passion to his runners. He makes runners want to run. He gets to know the individual as more than just a runner, but as a person.” Christian Finkbeiner, a junior on Placer’s cross country team and one of its top runners, echoes Harcus’ feelings. “He (Fee) is a big part of our success,” Finkbeiner said. “He inspires us to run our best. He is a big asset to our team.” If one has had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Fee, one would see exactly what Harcus and Finkbeiner are describing. Spend just a few minutes with this coach and even the most non-athletic individual is likely to lace up any type of athletic shoe and start to jog. His passion for the sport is evident, but just as compelling is his sincere interest in the young men and women he coaches. As I have mentioned many times, coaches at the high school level are the reason for the long- term success of any sport. Since 2002, Fee’s teams have won four section titles, one state title, and produced six individual champions. Kevin Ostenberg, head coach at Del Oro for the last five years, has also had remarkable success. He has produced three section championship teams and had three individual champions. Ostenberg feels that, “success builds on success.” “Kids from the feeder schools want to be part of a winning program,” Ostenberg said. “In addition, they (the kids) love what they are doing.” Both coaches point to the lure of the American River Canyon as a natural training ground for runners. “Our area is known as the ‘Endurance Capital of the World’ and we live next to one of the most beautiful running spots in the state,” Fee said. “While other schools in the Sacramento area are running on bike trails, we train in the rugged canyons of the American River.” Such is the allure of the Canyon that Ostenberg and 75 of his runners, chauffeured by parents, drive up on Tuesdays to train. This past Saturday, both schools again found success. At the Stanford University Invite, a cross country meet where only the finest high schools from Nevada, Oregon, and California are invited, the Placer boys and girls placed 12th and 6th respectively out of 27 teams, and the Del Oro girls placed fourth.