Arriving for an interview in the principal’s office at Coast Union High School in Cambria, a reporter notices several framed sports photos prominently displayed on the walls.
There is the legendary Jackie Robinson on one wall, an early 20th century motocross competitor on another, the renowned Michael Jordan in the back of the office and, on a side wall, a large illustration of a pumped-up athlete crossing the finish line of one of the most brutal competitions in all of sports — the “Iron Man Triathlon.”
That iron man competitor in the photograph was the principal, Wade Lawrence, a few years ago, finishing up his 112-mile bicycle ride, 2.4-mile swim and 26.2-mile marathon. His most recent triathlon was the Wildflower Triathlon in 2008.
After a brief conversation about triathlons, Lawrence reviewed other sporting challenges he has participated in — like the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco — which he has completed four times.
He’s also done the “Alcatraz Challenge,” a swim from Alcatraz to the mainland followed by a run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. He likes that one because, he says, with a straight face, “You don’t have to deal with a bike.”
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As for the swim from Alcatraz to the mainland, “…you swim two-thirds of your time to go half the distance.” Yes, the tides are strong and dangerous, “But if you’re an avid swimmer, it’s really no big deal.”
What is a big deal for Lawrence, of course, is the job of supervising the teachers who instruct the 244 students at Coast Union — and the task of supporting the coaches as they keep the nine sports programs running smoothly.
“Our sports programs are going really well,” Lawrence offered as he sat at a long table next to the reporter. “In fall sports, volleyball made CIF, and so did football. We had three tennis players invited to CIF as well” (Alex Zaragoza, Morgan May and Kylie Castle).
Lawrence said in January or February he and school district Superintendent Chris Adams and high school Athletic Director Bill Clough will interview applicants for the vacant football head coaching position.
He expects the boy’s varsity basketball team to have a shot at another league championship this year, and predicts the boys soccer team “… should do as well this year as last year” (in 2011-2012 the Broncos went 13-3-2 and won a CIF playoff game).
With a smile on his face, Lawrence mentioned that the new girls varsity soccer team coach, Tamara Corbet, is “…bringing a lot of enthusiasm to the program and there are a lot of girls out so they should be very successful this year.”
As for baseball and softball, the principal expects them both to be “… very strong this year as well.” Overall, Lawrence is very pleased at the growing numbers of student athletes who are participating.
“It may be because our numbers at Coast Union have gone up from 221 to 244,” he added. “I’m very happy with our programs,”
Lawrence — who began his teaching career (history and social studies) at Coast Union in 1992 — set a goal for himself a few years ago to get into the administration at Coast Union.
That said, now that he has achieved that goal, he admitted he really “misses the kids and being in the classroom. When that light bulb clicks on (in student faces) that is the most amazing feeling a teacher can have.”
In his own high school career at Susanville, high in the Sierra east of Mt. Lassen, Lawrence wrestled, ran cross country and track. In his junior year his track team won the state championship. Of all the high school sports activities he participated in, the pole vault was his all-time favorite. He referred to launching himself up and over the bar as “an amazing feeling.”
Just when a reporter thinks he has covered all of Lawrence’s sporting activities, he mentions his passion for motocross. “I had my first motorcycle when I was 4 years old,” he said, cracking another of his patented smiles.
“I raced until I was 16 when I had an accident and broke my back,” he explained, as calmly as though he had just mentioned that rain is expected for Christmas.
“So I made a career decision and decided to focus more energy into my studies, but I do miss motorcycles.”
With that, the principal shook hands and checked a stack of yellow stickies to gear up for his next appointment. After all, providing sound stewardship for teachers, students, and the community is a kind of triathlon in its own right.