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RUNNING ON ALL CYLINDERS : Blums' Idea of Turning Their Cross-Country Invitational Into Family Affair Becomes Reality

September 21, 1989|MIKE GLAZE | Special to The Times

Husband and wife Steve and Debbie Blum had experienced success in organizing and staging weekend road races, so when it came time to merge their ideas to create a high school cross-country invitational, the possibilities were endless.

All that stood between Steve and Debbie and their newly fostered idea was a way to finance the meet.

Since Buena and Channel Islands are located in Ventura and Oxnard, respectively, the Blums hoped that Kiwanis Clubs from both cities would sponsor the meet. Although they had no reply from the Ventura Kiwanis Club, the South Oxnard Kiwanis eagerly accepted the Blums' proposal.

Officials from both schools approved the plan for a California Interscholastic Federation-sanctioned cross-country meet, and thus was born the Kiwanis Seaside Invitational, for which Buena and Channel Islands are co-hosts.

"South Kiwanis was kind enough to give us some money to get us off the ground," said Debbie, the girls' cross-country coach at Channel Islands High. "We would sure like to get sponsors from both cities. We'll try again next year.

"(Steve and I) have put on a lot of road races so we thought we could put on a quality invitational. It's sort of a family thing. Our whole purpose is to give a quality meet for our kids and for other kids."

Bob Edwards, president of the South Oxnard Kiwanis Club, said that one of the main purposes of Kiwanis is to help people.

"One of the coaches approached us at one of our monthly board meetings and we decided right then to sponsor the invitational," Edwards said.

Although there usually is only one host school for a cross-country invitational, the irony here is that Steve, the girls' cross-country coach at Buena, and Debbie are husband and wife and coaches at neighborhood-rival high schools, both of which have championship-caliber cross-country programs in the Southern Section 4-A Division.

The Buena girls' team has won six consecutive Channel League titles and was third in the 4-A championships in 1983 and second in '84. Channel Islands, 12th in the girls' 4-A championships, captured its first Marmonte League crown last year.

The experience gained from organizing road races around the Ventura area helped assure the Blums of a successful cross-country invitational. The couple organizes the Buena 4 Mile race, which will make its seventh annual run in January, and shares responsibilities for the annual Easter Egg 8-kilometer run in April.

In November, Steve, an alum of Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and Pomona High, will co-produce the Lasse Viren 20-kilometer race at Sycamore Canyon. Viren is a former Finnish Olympic runner who won gold medals in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter events in the 1972 and '76 Olympics. Steve also worked the five- and 10-kilometer cross-country championships for The Athletics Congress.

The Blums' efforts and months of careful preparation have paid off. Sixteen teams--six with current Southern Section championship experience--from two CIF sections competed Sept. 9 in the inaugural invitational at San Buenaventura State Beach.

Although Buena and Channel Islands compete in the Channel and Marmonte leagues, respectively, the teams meet only in invitationals and, sometimes, the Southern Section championships.

"I don't know of anyone who has ever competed against their wife," Steve said with a laugh. "Or anyone who wants to."

"We sort of argued (when planning) this course out," laughed Debbie, a '73 graduate of Cal Poly Pomona and an alum of Bishop Amat High. "It was a compromise even though I thought I had the better suggestions."

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