Cross Country Coach, 1970-1997
Dick Calvin left a coaching legacy that will most likely never be equaled on Cougar Hill. At the urging of his son, Steve, and several other running enthusiasts in the student body, Dick agreed to coach the cross country team in 1970. With little more than his own experience years earlier as a high school middle distance runner at Hayward High and Analy High Schools and the curiosity of a trained librarian, he developed the premier cross country program on the Peninsula. Dick’s unassuming and humble style gave the impression that his goal was to become the least coach possible but in fact, he excelled in several critical areas of coaching: communicating with student athletes, recruiting, motivating, and designing a demanding yet fun program. Kids that joined the team became members of a second family. As success and team spirit grew, the Cougar Cross Country program achieved incredible success.
Coach Calvin’s runners won numerous championships both at invitational competitions and at the league and section level. In his twenty-eight years of coaching, the Cougar boys and girls won more than forty league titles. The Cougar girls won four CCS championships and three second place finishes; the Cougar boys won four CCS titles, were runners-up once and in 1994 finished third in the State Championships. Two Cougar runners from this period finished in the top five at the State Championships. Dick Calvin was an early advocate of competitive athletics for girls. At a time when there was no running competition for girls, he encouraged Becky Schmidt (inaugural member of the Cougar Hall of Fame), a high school freshman to run on the boy’s frosh-soph team. She was the only girl running in the NPL (North Peninsula League) and still became a league champion. Soon, other girls joined Becky and the “Cougar Kittens” as Coach called them, dominated the league and section competitions.
Dick Calvin’s organizational skills were put to good use when he founded the Artichoke Invitational Cross Country meet, a meet that is still held today. Taking advantage of the challenging terrain around the high school campus, Coach Calvin turned what started as a small invitational meet into the largest in Northern California. Coach was meet director for 20 years and attracted the top cross country teams, some from as far away as Nevada. But never did Coach take on a project without the close support of the strength of his wife Lita, lovingly referred to as “Mama Cougar.” Lita prepared throughout the year for the highly successful Cougar summer running camp. She canned food, purchased supplies and filled the three huge freezers in the Calvin garage with provisions. Cougar runners returned from high altitude training for the fall season ready to set records. Lita made sure that each runner had his name on the back of his sweat suit. Dick’s son, Steve, an outstanding runner and wrestler both at Half Moon Bay High and in college, served as assistant coach. It was a family affair.
Dick Calvin completed college with a bachelor and master degree in English. He came to the teaching profession after completing a military career that seemed would never end. During World War II, Dick was captain of a multi-engine bomber. He returned to civilian life after the war but was called back to service to fly in the Berlin Airlift. His second return to civilian life was again disrupted when he was called back to service again during the Korean War, this time as a multi-engine flight instructor and wing commander. After beginning his teaching career in far Northern California, Dick moved his family to Half Moon Bay in 1961 to take a position teaching English. The high school was located in town in what is now known as Cunha Middle School. After several years on staff, Dick completed studies for a second master’s degree in librarianship and became the high school librarian.
Coach Calvin’s contributions to the Cougar community extended beyond the cross country team. Dick wrote a weekly column for the Half Moon Bay Review called “The Cougar Corner.” Lita Calvin took thousands of photos at all Cougar athletic events and presented the prints to the athletes and their parents at the end of each season. Dick Calvin retired December 4, 1997 following another highly successful cross country season. He died in 2002, much loved by his runners, admired by his coaching peers and memorialized in the annals of Half Moon Bay High School.