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Spinnler to coach St. James, World Cup runners

August 25, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

Running is running and coaching is coaching to Mike Spinnler.

"I take every athlete's effort as a noble effort, whether it's a 14-year-old kid trying to break 12 minutes for 2 miles or a 30-year-old athlete trying to win a medal at the world championships," he said.

Spinnler, 48, of Hagerstown will spend the first week of September in the Netherlands, coaching the U.S. national team at the 100K World Cup.

When he returns, he'll guide the St. James boys cross country team in its first competition of the season as a first-year coach of the Saints.

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Spinnler officially accepted the St. James job on Wednesday. He takes over for Karl Yergey, who is now coaching the St. James golf team.

Spinnler's rsum is hard to match. He twice won the JFK 50 Mile in the early 1980s and now directs the JFK, arguably the most prestigious ultramarathon in the country. Spinnler, a three-time U.S. national team coach, also is president of Hagerstown's Cumberland Valley Athletic Club and coaches the club's athletes, including 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Susan Graham-Gray.

"I've turned down a lot of offers over the last several years to coach collegiately and scholastically, but ... this seemed like a really good fit for me," Spinnler said. "I like the fact that it's just a stone's throw away from my house. And I'm really excited to be involved with a school that makes such a commitment to athletics. Every student on that campus has to be involved with three sports."

At St. James, Spinnler said he's "come full circle."

"The very first footrace I ever ran as a 12-year-old - the 1971 JFK - actually finished in front of the St. James gym," he said. "When I stepped foot on campus the other day, it dawned on me that this was where my involvement in distance running began."

He's ready to begin again.

"Right now there are 14 (boys on the team), and I haven't met any of them yet. We'll start from scratch," Spinnler said. "I'll take them at whatever condition level they're at and work from there. ... I hope they're excited about going to a higher level than where they've been before."

It will be much different than his work next month in the Netherlands, where he'll help guide America's top ultrarunners, including fellow two-time JFK champs Howard Nippert and Connie Gardner, as they compete against roughly 30 other countries over 62.1 miles.

Spinnler was nominated for the position by Nippert and then approved for it by USA Track & Field.

Spinnler twice coached the U.S. women's marathon relay team - in 1992 in Korea and in 1994 in China.

"My philosophy has always been that if there are athletes out there seeking excellence, I want to help them achieve their goals," he said.

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