If Chuck Sanchez, a three-sport athlete from San Gorgonio way back in the 1970s, were set to do it all over again, he might make a dynamic switch in picking sports.
“I played,” he said, “football, wrestled and ran track.”
Three-sport athletes are a dying breed in today’s prep world.
Here’s the thing: He’s also a three-sport coach, which is an even more rare breed in today’s prep world.
Sanchez might be the most versatile coach on a Spartans’ staff that has some versatility. Spartans’ football coach Rich McClure, for instance, dives into track during the springtime. Chad Rahn coaches boy’s water polo in the fall, girl’s polo in winter and he’ll apparently take on swimming next spring.
Sanchez, though, amazingly skips in and out of coaching various sports at San G -- fall, winter and spring, with plenty of summer activities in between.
“Do you remember Roger Rahn?” he asked one day.
Sure, Chad’s dad. Past water polo coach at San G.
In fact, the Rahn family, it seems, organized all water activities around San G.
“Roger’s the one that talked me into coaching polo. I told him, ‘I coach cross-country in the fall and track in the spring. I can’t do all three.’
“So I’m coaching the girls’ JV polo.”
Polo, he said, is like combining soccer, basketball and hockey. “Swimming and ball-handling,” he said, “are the fundamentals I try to teach.”
On site, he’s the school’s pool lifeguard.
You can easily see the value this guy has for boys and girls distance runners, girls poloists, then a bunch of runners in the spring -- plus guarding the pool for safety.
Andrea Johnson, who jumped ship at San G to coach Redlands East Valley back in 1997, tried to bring Sanchez along to coach Wildcats’ runners.
“I wanted to build something here,” said Sanchez, who has launched plenty of San Andreas League cross-country championships -- team and individual -- since taking over after Johnson’s departure.
Johnson, a multiple champion in A Run Through Redlands road race, likely used San G’s trip to State in 1996 as a nice resume-builder to claim that REV job. While she’s had plenty of success in that spot, Sanchez has carried on at San G.
He’s looking for State championship berths.
Some names from the past: Eduardo Perez, last year’s cross-country champ.
Antoinette Padilla, the girls 2008 SAL champion.
Or Terry Vega, a 1997 State Division II girl’s finalist. The year before, she took sixth individually in the Lady Spartans’ sixth place State finish behind Concord Carondelet as San G’s No. 1 runner.
Beth Morales, Lakesha McClenton (who followed Johnson to run at REV), Leilani Rios, Keynasia Daniels, Jena Ochoa and Caroline Welker fit into that Lady Spartan lineup that reached State.
Sanchez watched that whole thing up close.
“The boys have never gone to State,” he said.
It’s still a goal.
That’s one reason why he’ll take a San G team and, mercilessly, stick them into an invitational with powerhouse teams like Temecula Great Oak or Yucaipa or Newbury Park -- CIF top-ranked teams.
It’s part of his pattern. Racing against area rivals like Arroyo Valley or Indian Springs isn’t going to improve his teams’ times.
Racing against the best teams will, though.
He might tell Raul Andrade or Edward Ocampo, this year’s top boys’ racers, “Yes, you can beat people. But are you accomplishing your goal?”
Lowering times, for instance. Beating the hills for another.
Here’s how he gets runners: “A runner might bring a friend to the team. That friend might bring another friend. Before you know it, he’s got a team. “There are diamonds in the rough,” he’ll say.
It’s clockwork that San G will work its way into a CIF Southern Section preliminary race. You know how hard it is, though, to be one of those top four teams from each heat?
Not since 2016 has San G reached the CIF finals, but it was an individual, German Valdez, who raced alone in Spartan ware.
Sanchez doesn’t give up hope.
“Running is not like soccer or baseball. You don’t have to have a skill, just a commitment to work hard. If you train hard, you’ll develop.”
You get the feeling that’s what Citrus Valley coach Graciela Padilla Leong, or Johnson at REV, or any cross-country coach would tell their runners.
At San G, it’s building commitment by communication.
Speaking of soccer, Sanchez raided San G’s soccer roster to build his girls’ squad for this season. “They’re raw,” he said, “but they’re strong. Racing is different (than playing soccer). They’re dedicated. Hard workers.”
Soccer wasn’t available to play during Sanchez’s prep athlete days. As for doing it all over again, Sanchez said, “If I did do it again, I’d do cross country.”
Instead of football?
“Football’s a lot of rah-rah stuff,” he said. “When I was in the Marine Corps, I found out I could run.”
Got a sports tip, some rumblings, or just chat about sports? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.