Feb. 12, 2015
For immediate release

Jesuit distance stars reflect on their coach’s life lessons

(Fourth in a series highlighting the six members of the Sacramento Running Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame class. Today: Eric and Mark Mastalir).

They came to Jesuit High School as swimmers. After many miles along the American River Parkway, Eric and Mark Mastalir left as two of the best distance runners in the nation.

Eric owned a tad more strength, Mark a touch more speed. The identical twins won California state individual titles in 1986, with Mark claiming the 1,600-meter crown in 4 minutes, 7.81 seconds and Eric capturing the 3,200-meter race in 8:44.95.

They ranked 1-2 in the nation that same year, with Mark leading the way in the 1,600 with a 4:04.15 personal best and Eric right behind at 4:04.23. At 3,200 meters, Eric topped the national list with an 8:44.95 best, just ahead of Mark’s 8:51.99 best.

Their accomplishments earned the Mastalirs berths in the Sacramento Running Association Hall of Fame. They and the other members of the class of 2015 – California International Marathon co-founder Sally Edwards, legendary Jesuit coach Walt Lange, masters standout Jim O’Neil and talented ultramarathoner Bill Finkbeiner – 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 www.runsra.org.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” Eric Mastalir said of his selection. “It’s quite an honor. I’m really happy to be a part of the community I’ve been disconnected from for some time.

“It’s nice to have that recognition. Running is still an important part of my life.”

Said Mark Mastalir: “It’s great news. I’m excited. I didn’t know I was even a Hall of Fame candidate. I’m still plodding along. It’s an honor to be inducted with them.”

Ask the Mastalirs, 47, what stands out from their Jesuit running days and they skip right over all those highlight reels from track and cross country.

It’s not the state titles, the prestige of being national leaders – Eric was the 1986 National Track and Field Athlete of the Year – or the honor of competing for their country in the World Junior Cross Country Championships in 1987.

Instead, the brothers independently noted the lessons they’ve learned from Coach Lange.

“For me it was just about Walt Lange, one of the most influential people in my life,” Mark Mastalir said. “What mattered was a sense of discipline. You had to show up. You had to be accountable.

“Teamwork. It’s all about teamwork and discipline. The sum of all the things he taught me, that was my takeaway.”

Eric Mastalir, who won the 3,000-meter title at the prestigious Golden West Invitational with an 8:07.60 effort in 1986, sounded a similar theme.

“It’s the discipline I learned, the sacrifice and hard work,” he said. “Commitment to success and detail.

“I really value the relationships … the quality of people involved in your life is exceptional.”

Both have taken those values and forged successful paths in the business world after earning degrees at Stanford.

Mark, a history major, works as vice president of marketing for Hoka One One, a running footwear company specializing in improving performance for ultrarunners. He previously held marketing jobs with Reebok and Nike.

He works in the Bay Area with residences in Mill Valley and Bend, Ore., where his wife Anne, daughter Ava, 8, and son Jake, 5, reside.

“I still have a competitive drive,” said Mark Mastalir, who loves to watch the sunrise while running near San Francisco. “It’s a great way to clear the mind, do a little thinking.”

Eric Mastalir, a philosophy major at Stanford, works for Amazon as principal for business development. He previously worked as chief commercial officer for the Seattle Seahawks, vice president/corporate partnerships for the San Jose Sharks and spent four years in Sacramento helping the Kings with corporate sponsorships.

He lives in Seattle with his wife, Shannon, daughter Cameron, 8, and son Myles, 5.

Like his brother, Eric Mastalir still runs about 30 miles a week.

“I just enjoy it,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be able to stay active.”

The Mastalirs, who grew up in El Dorado Hills, stumbled onto running at Jesuit after years of competitive swimming.

“We went to Jesuit because Oak Ridge had just opened and my parents didn’t know much about it,” Mark Mastalir said. “Hank Meyer was (Jesuit’s) dean. He basically said, ‘You guys should do a sport, get involved, meet people, get involved in school.’

“We chose cross country.”

Lange is glad they did.

“Obviously they’re talented, but they also bring character traits,” he said. “They’ve got the drive. They show up on race day.

“These are the easiest guys to coach.”

What was it like to run together?

“It was a great experience,” said Mark Mastalir, who is four minutes younger than Eric. “We always picked each other up. I always had a training partner at my ability level.

“He just happened to be a two-miler. I happened to be a miler.”

The Mastalirs and the other four 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 Michael 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.

SRA events include the Credit Union SACTOWN Five- and Ten-Mile Run on April 12, the Gold Rush 50k on May 9, the California International Marathon on Dec. 6 and the recently concluded Super Sunday Run.