By Taylor Eldridge
I used to misspell Draut’s last name all the time. I mean if you hear it spoken by somebody, one would assume it’s Draught? Right, right? Well, it isn’t. It’s D-r-a-u-t. Like sauerdraut. Just wanted to set the record straight there.
For those of you who have read this blog, you have known that I have been intrigued by both teams from East. Especially the girls’ team. So I finally caught up with coach Draut earlier week and got the scoop. How does the girls team seem to have new runners every week and still succeed? Is East really under-rated? Do they have a true No. 1 runner?
Find out after the jump.
I have been mystified by your girl’s team. It seems like every meet they have a new #3-#5 runner. All with great times. How much depth do you guys really there at East?
“We’ve got about 12 girls. They just keep shifting back and forth. We got two up at the top that are kind of pretty solid. The other 10 can’t catch them. But we got two out there that are pretty good. Then the next 10 from week-to-week, it’s been whoever steps up and performs. I think some of it too, is for a lot of teams around the City, we’ve been dealing with some of this respiratory virus stuff. Just fighting it. But we got a good group of new girls. Most of them are freshman. They’re really working hard and contributing well. We’ve been real fortunate so far. We’re still trying to get some girls healed up that are injured. We haven’t ran Laura Combs for three weeks now. We’re just waiting and see how things go with her. We’re hoping we have her back for City League.”
That has to make practices pretty competitive then, right? 10-12 girls all around the same time?
“My thoughts are…I hope that helps. They all get along so well. They’re a pretty close-knit group and they have a lot of fun together and they care for each other. I thought we would run a little bit better at Rim Rock, and even though we tried to tell them all week how big it was and try to tell them about the course…talking about it is not the same thing as experiencing it. When they got up there I think they all got a little nervous. They ran ok and I told them a good goal was making sure they were in the top-10. But I really thought they had a chance of being in the top five or six. They have run the course and that’s not really a course you can explain to them before anything you tell them makes sense. Several of them told me after the race, ‘Now I understand what you were trying to tell me.’ We knew that going in and that’s one of the biggest values of getting in a big race and getting the experience of having to get on the line with that many competitors and run that difficult of a course and really challenge yourself. When you get up there for State, you already have that experience. I think Rim Rock has a huge value of that competitive value. You get to find out for yourself about what that experience is like.”
It seems without a dominant No. 1 runner that you guys kind of fly under the radar. Is that really the case? Are you guys kind of under-rated?
“I think most of the area coaches, after they see the meet times after a couple of meets, they can start to figure out where you’re at. We got a decent group of girls that are pretty close together time-wise, so we got some decent pack-running going on. Which helps you with your point totals and it kind of forces other teams to score higher. I don’t know if it’s sneaking in. Somebody asked me that the other day and I would have to go back and look, but I think we’ve placed 2nd at City League for about four or five years in a row. We just can’t seem to get over the top. Of course, the parochial schools have such good feeder programs in middle school it’s hard to compete.”
How hard is it to have a consistent program at a public school in the City League?
“We’re fortunate enough this year that we got a number of girls that have somewhat the same ability or talent and they are able to stay in close proximity. We also try to group them up in practice and keep them together in interval workouts. You’re always trying to get the individuals to do the best they can. I think you have a slight competitive advantage in meets if you can group that many girls up and get those girls in there in that top-25. You pack your points in there real tight. It’s worked out so far. That’s just a function of the fact that we have a number of girls that have similar running abilities.”
The boys team has sort of reloaded too. Did you expect them to be doing this well, this early?
“We lost four seniors last year. I wasn’t too sure what we were going to get with some of these kids. They did a lot of workt his summer and made the varsity squad. Aaron Heil was very solid last year and continued to be so to today. He’s running well. I still don’t think he’s running as well as he’s capable of, but we’re getting there. One of the bigger surprises has been Jesse Parker, who was on JV last year. But he’s just come through huge this year. He’s really been working hard in practice and challenging Heil. The whole group of seven, they’re working hard together in practices just trying to improve. That’s been a good surprise for us. Having (Parker) in there has really jumped us up. At Southeast, he kind of broke through and convinced himself he can get in there and get to the top. That’s a good surprise for a coaching staff when an athletes just figures it out. He’s figured it out. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far.”
Back to the girls team. So you guys have a super freshman class then?
“We’re very fortunate because most of the girls this year, they all came from the Robinson middle school program. (Coach) Edie Howk over there has just been doing a great job. Coach Howk has done a great job over there all these years. We’re a benefactor of what she does. We’ve had good kids that come to East from other schools. But certain middle school programs are just stronger than others. We’ve been a benefactor because of the Robinson factor. We’ve had some kids come over from Hadley. We’ve had kids in the past year that live in the Maize district end up at East High because of the I.B. program. We’ve been a benefactor because of special circumstances. Once we get kids in, we have a pretty good summer conditioning program. I always tell the kids that cross country is made in the summer, not the fall. If you’ll do your work in the summer, the fall will take care of itself. If they come into the season with not enough miles and not enough running activity during the summer, then there’s just isn’t a lot of things I can do with them. They’re just too far behind the curve. I think the summer conditioning program has helped us be consistent. The thing I’d like to see is bigger numbers. It just seems it’s harder and harder every year to get students to come out and participate. I don’t know if it’s dedication or the work level is just too difficult, but I just think they don’t come out and don’t challenge themselves enough to find out what they’re capable of. I think City-wise especially, over the past three or four years the middle school programs are really starting to build and a number of high schools are starting to see the benefits of that. If you’ve been out to some of those races, there’s 150-200 kids out there running. The middle school programs already are starting to build and I think that’s very exciting for the district.”
So you’ve been coaching at East for a while now. How did you end up there?
“I got hired for one season as an assistant coach and now it’s turned into 11 years. I graduated from East in ‘78. I ran cross country and track and J.D. Levinson was my head coach and Steve Sell was the assistant. My assistant, Darren Rogers, was an East High alumni. He ran cross country and track at East. We just enjoy the kids. We have a level of passion for the sport and try to impress that onto the kids. We talk about the history of our program. There’s a lot of history at East High School, clear back into the 1920’s. We talk about that history and that they’re a part of that. I think that helps a number of the students to motivate them. It’s been a good stay and I’ve been very thankful the administration has allowed me to coach. I don’t teach. I’m a Rule V coach. I have a USATF Level 2 coaching certification from the USATF. Things have gone well. Our program continues to be strong year-in and year-out. I’ve been very thankful to be associated with the program.”
What made you interested in cross country?
“I’ve just always been interested in running. In some respect, how can you not be interested in it? 5- or 6-years-old when Ryun was in high school. Going to the Olympic Games. On into the late 60’s and the 70’s when he set world records. There was a lot of focus on the distance running during my childhood years into my middle schools years. That had a big impact on me. We used to watch all the races we could on TV. We would go out to summer track meets and run in the summer. In the early 60’s between kindergarten and 1st grade, I participated in the Wichita State Track Club. Bob Timmons was running the program then and they used to practice over at East High. In some respects, I feel like I’ve grown up on the East High track. I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with such a historic program.”
Rim Rock was this past weekend, I know that’s always a favorite to go to. What’s your take on the course, the meet and just the experience?
“I used to make the comment that Rim Rock was the runners’ Field of Dreams. With the silhouettes and the fact that the ground is only used for cross country meets. It’s a cross country facility and it is just absolutely awesome. But the silhouettes and the history that is there, if you’re any type of running fan or cross country fan, how can you there and not be excited is impossible. As tough as the course is, I think it really challenges a person’s character if they’re competing on that course. I go up every year and look forward to it and talk about it. The Jim Ryun Skyline and I think once they got the Bob Timmons silhouette up – that picture is a famous one of Ryun where he used to hold that stopwatch in the air when he was starting their intervals. I used to go up there. You just got to love it. There’s just so much history. It’s almost like the runners’ Hall of Fame. It’s just the place to go. I’ve always enjoyed getting up there and seeing coach Timmons and visiting with him for a couple of minutes. To know that he helped bring the East High program to prominence, I’ve just been very fortunate to end up here.”
TV show: HousePost-race meal: Smothered burritoRyun or Pre?: Jim RyunGatorade or Water?: WaterFavorite course (outside of Rim Rock): Oklahoma State JamboreePersonal best 2-mile: low-10’s