Jan. 22, 2015
For immediate release

Jesuit coach, five others set for Feb. 21 induction

(First in a series highlighting the six members of the Sacramento Running Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame class. Today: Walt Lange).

Walt Lange has mentored plenty of great running talents in his long, illustrious coaching career at Jesuit High School.

Michael Stember. Eric and Mark Mastalir. Matt Farley. Paul Thomas. David Welsh.

What really motivates Lange, though, is helping the lesser lights find a way to shine.

“You get noticed for the stars; they come along every few years,” said Lange, one of six inductees in the Sacramento Running Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame class.

“You’re working with more average talents every day. That’s really what it’s all about … it really is a privilege to be out there working with young people.

“The Stembers and Mastalirs and all that, there’s a whole long list of runners of lesser ability that are quite satisfying to coach. They make a huge breakthrough or PR in a race, I see the work that’s been done, the character required to achieve the goal.”

Lange, 72, joins the Mastalir twins, California International Marathon co-founder Sally Edwards, talented ultramarathoner Bill Finkbeiner and masters standout Jim O’Neil in the 2015 Hall of Fame class, which will be honored at the SRA’s Hall of Fame and Annual Achievement Awards dinner on Feb. 21 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

Tickets for the 6 p.m. event are $50. For more information, visit https://runsra.org/hall-of-fame/.

Lange earned his Hall of Fame spot with a brilliant cross country and track and field coaching career at Jesuit that started in 1970 and continues today.

His cross country teams won 24 Sac-Joaquin Section titles and nine California state titles. Lange also guided seven individual champions in the 1,600- and 3200-meter events at the California State Track and Field Championships, and produced one individual state cross country winner.

More importantly, he’s made a positive impact on the runners he’s coached.

“If there was a Mt. Rushmore for coaches, there is no doubt he would be displayed prominently on it,” said Sacramento Running Association Executive Director Scott Abbott, who ran for Lange at Jesuit. “He is undeniably one of the great coaches in the history of the sport.

“Coach Lange has been, and continues to be, a visionary in coaching techniques. He has always been at the forefront of the use of technology and information to improve athlete performance, team management and the marketing and presentation of the sport.

“I will always be thankful to Coach Lange for the impact he’s had on my life, and the important life transferring skills I developed under his tutelage during my formative years that are deeply embedded in the person I am today.”

While Lange notes his enjoyment in coaching average talents, he’s also deeply appreciative when the Stembers and Mastalirs come along.

“Obviously, they’re talented, but they also bring character traits,” Lange said. “They’ve got the drive. They show up on race day. Often times you’re dealing with runners who have a lot of talent. For whatever reasons they don’t quite reach their potential.

“These guys, wow, just stand back and let it happen. These are the easiest guys to coach.”

Lange already has plenty of honors, including the 1981 California Coach of the Year, 2010 National Cross Country Boys Coach of the Year and the 2014 California Coaches Association Hall of Fame. But he strikes a humble tone when asked about entering the SRA Hall of Fame.

“Obviously, it’s quite an honor to be recognized by the association, a highly regarded organization,” he said. “I’m very flattered.”

Lange, who lives near Jesuit in Carmichael with his wife, Carmen, has three adult children — Nicole, 46, Kevin 45, and Kerry, 44 – and four grandchildren.

He considers it a blessing to coach in an area geared toward running.

“The running environment is fantastic,” said Lange, who remains Jesuit’s head cross country coach and also serves as an assistant track coach.

“The physical environment, it doesn’t get much better, especially at Jesuit, so close to the (American River) parkway.”

Lange and the other five inductees join the 16 members already in the SRA Hall of Fame.  The inaugural class of 2013 featured Billy Mills, Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith. The 2014 class included Stember, Al Baeta, Patti Gray Bellan, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Harold Kuphaldt, John Mansoor, Heike Skaden Mansoor and Tim Twietmeyer.

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new 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.