Jan. 16, 2014
For immediate release

Former Bella Vista standout enters SRA Hall of Fame

(Fourth in a series highlighting the eight members of the Sacramento Running Association’s 2014 Hall of Fame class. Today: Harold Kuphaldt)

As a young boy, Harold Kuphaldt wanted to find something he was good at so he could stand out in a family of 10 kids.

His moment came in the fifth grade, when he ran in a presidential fitness test with his classmates and left them all in the dust.

That day started a wonderful running career that led Kuphaldt to a state individual title in high school, a national team championship in college and the cherished distinction of breaking 4 minutes in the mile.

The former Bella Vista High School and University of Oregon standout is scheduled to be inducted into the Sacramento Running Association’s Hall of Fame on Jan. 25 during a dinner at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

He joins fellow inductees Al Baeta, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Patti Gray Bellan, Heike Skaden Mansoor, John Mansoor, Michael Stember and Tim Twietmeyer.

That group joins the inaugural SRA Hall of Fame class inducted last year: Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Billy Mills, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith.

The SRA will also present its Annual Achievement Awards, including Athlete of the Year to Shadrack Biwott.

Tickets for the 6 p.m. dinner are $50 and can be obtained at www.runsra.org.

“I was surprised,” said Kuphaldt, a 49-year-old physical therapist. “To be in the Hall of Fame … it’s quite an honor.”

Kuphaldt ran his way there, starting with that day in the fifth grade.

“I didn’t have that many friends,” he said. “I didn’t do well in school. I had a lot of self-esteem issues.

“I did really, really well to the point where my peers were noticing, ‘Wow, you’re really, really fast.’”

In case Kuphaldt needed any more nudging toward the running life, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills showed up at his elementary school to talk one day that same year.

“Those two events happened around the same time, sort of planted the seed, maybe I have the talent for running and it’s something I can pursue,” Kuphaldt said.

He started running with his older sister Patty, who was bringing home medals from Bella Vista High School. Kuphaldt, then a seventh-grader, recalls training with his sister and her friends for the Cal 10, running eight consecutive days before the race.

His mom brought a T-shirt to the race for the fastest Kuphaldt, figuring it would be Patty. But young Harold hit the line in 69 minutes and change, taking home family honors.

“It’s pretty easy to be anonymous as one of 10 children,” he said. “I starved for wanting to be good at something, something to stand out among my family and peers.”

That was no longer a problem. Kuphaldt blossomed into a star running for coach Dan Greenwald at Bella Vista, leading the Broncos to Sac-Joaquin Section cross country titles in 1981 and 1982, winning the section individual cross country title in 1981 and winning section track crowns in the 3,200 meters in 1981 and 1982.

And then came his most shining moment as a prep. Kuphaldt, a runner-up at the Kinney National Cross Country Championships in 1981, won the 3,200-meter title at the 1982 state track meet in Sacramento with a blistering 8:51.99 effort.

“It was certainly one of the highlights of my high school career,” said Kuphaldt, who had graduated that morning. “I had a number of high school friends who skipped all the graduation parties to come and cheer me on.

“I remember the crowd being very loud down the home stretch.”

Kuphaldt wasn’t the only star in the making at Bella Vista. Nicholas Sparks, the well-known author, was one of his teammates.

The impressive results continued at the University of Oregon, with Kuphaldt helping the Ducks win the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in 1984 with a sixth-place finish in the steeplechase. He also ran a 3:59.73 mile in 1987, sending a packed house at Hayward Field in Eugene into a frenzy.

“The big thing that stands out is how awesome it was to be a part of the history and tradition at the University of Oregon,” he said. “I had a good career there. I pale in comparison to so many of the greats.”

Kuphaldt met his wife Elisa at Bella Vista, where he now coaches the boys cross country team. They live in Fair Oaks and have three sons: Adam, 20; Scott, 16, and Jason, 15, the younger two currently running for Bella Vista.

“I was one of those Dads, I say I’m emotionally incapable of staying on the sidelines,” he said.

And when his Achilles tendinitis isn’t bothering him, Kuphaldt still enjoys going for a run.

“I still love running,” he said. “I want to run.”

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.