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Glendale's Track Coach Would Rather Have His Winners in the Classroom

May 14, 1987|HEATHER HAFNER

Perhaps the reason Glendale College's track and field team has not won a state community college track and field championship since 1975 is because Coach Tom McMurray is more concerned with his athletes finishing with A's, B's and C's in the classroom rather than first, second or third places on the track.

Nonetheless, his team has won 116 straight dual meets and 13 consecutive conference championships. But the state title has eluded him.

According to McMurray, the teams that finish in the top three at the state meet have "lots of out-of-state kids," something he doesn't want to see at Glendale.

"When you start bringing in people from all over the country. . . . I just don't want to get into that philosophy. I'd rather stay with the local kids and have the local high school support," McMurray said. He said he would rather boast that he fields a team of overachievers in the classroom, including six honor students.

"The goal here at Glendale is to (have an athlete) move on to a university," McMurray said, leaning on a hurdle at the college stadium. "Not everyone is going to get a scholarship, but they will have had the opportunity. We don't stress winning here. We stress academics."

The better the student, the better the athlete "because those are the kind of people we can rely upon," he said, although "they might not score a point."

McMurray, who will lead the Vaqueros on Friday and Saturday in the state championships at Bakersfield College, cites weight-specialist Scott Schain as an example.

He's a B+ plus student and a member of the college's honor society, McMurray said. "He is our team captain and he's our most outstanding field athlete. Those are the kind of people you need as team captains and leaders."

For Schain, who throws the discus, hammer and javelin and whose 55-3 shot put ranks among the best in the state, enrolling at Glendale was a compromise.

"It was hard for me because I went to Granada Hills High," said the 20-year-old freshman, "and most of the people there went to a major university right off the bat. For me to go to a junior college, I kind of had to swallow my pride. I came here with the attitude that everyone that went to a junior college was dumb.

"It wasn't the attitude to have. Most of the people here are smart, maybe just people paying their way through college."

Schain, who hopes he'll be recruited by a major university, believes his Glendale experience has paid off. The 5-10, 205-pound right-hander is a sophomore academically but is in his first season of sports eligibility after redshirting last season with a back injury.

As for track, he has "gotten more attention than I ever would have (at a major university)," Schain said.

Because he is community-minded, he said, McMurray does not recruit outside California.

Dave Rider is the weight coach for the Vaqueros. His academic and athletic philosophies appear to mesh with McMurray's.

"I've had a lot of luck this year with the athletes," Rider said. "All are doing well academically.

"Coach McMurray checks on them at the end of each week to make sure they're going to class. I think it's as important as coaching. No matter whether it's a junior college or a university, the No. 1 priority should be to see that the kids get an education."

Freshman Rodney Bradshaw, the state 3-A 300-meter intermediate hurdles champion (37.30) at Saugus High last season, has required much of McMurray's attention, becoming the newest convert to the B-or-better club.

Bradshaw, who will compete in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state meet, has taken full advantage of lunchtime and private tutoring sessions, McMurray said. McMurray and Rider believe the team's success will do the recruiting.

"If our athletes have a good experience," McMurray said, "they'll tell the coaches and athletes at their (former) high schools. That's how we get most of our athletes, through word-of-mouth."

The reputations of the Glendale track and football teams were reasons enough for Judd Goodrich. The 6-3, 230-pound freshman from Saugus High is an offensive lineman and the Vaqueros' top javelin thrower. His personal best of 204-3 should place him among the top three at the state meet, McMurray said.

"I came here for football and track because they have such a good record in both," Goodrich said. "I wanted to see how far I could go."

McMurray and Rider's answer: as far as his books will take him.

"Forcing the high school teachers, as well as the athletes, to take care of education will help to make sure that (students) are getting the help they need," Rider said. "When I was a first-year coach, I used to just say, 'How far can you throw?' But as I got older, I started to see how important education was."

The program at Glendale is not perfect, Rider admits.

If an athlete doesn't make it to a major university via athletics or academics, Rider said, "you feel like they have failed themselves or that you have failed them. Kids at this age tend to waiver."

Rider admits that some athletes try to find an easy path and that it often ends in academic failure. But he sees an encouraging trend developing.

Just because you're an athlete, Rider said, "you can't slide by anymore. It's unacceptable. Track and field now is getting to be more about life and school than about throwing."

On the surface, an exceptional athlete may think there are ways to get by, but McMurray has established barriers.

"If I find out an athlete hasn't been going to class, he won't compete that week," McMurray said. "If they have a potential for a scholarship, it can be bad, because I'll hold them out."

His logic?

"If they don't get good grades," he said, "they aren't going anywhere anyway."

In other words, the Vaqueros who will compete this weekend at Bakersfield can't lose, as far as McMurray is concerned, because they have already won off the track.

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