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When you look at Byron Craighead's work history, the temptation is to ask: "You mean one guy has done all that?"

Craighead has announced his retirement as head athletic trainer at Santa Rosa JC after 37 years mending the aches and pains of Bear Cub athletes.

"It's the right time," said Craighead. "As you get older, you think about it."

At one point he figured "I would stay until I dropped," but then he took a closer look at athletes "at all levels who had hung on way too long."

When Craighead started at SRJC in 1971, there were eight sports . . . now there are 21 as well as the cheerleading and dance programs.

He began his career at SRJC after getting a bachelor's degree then a master's degree from Humboldt State.

"Byron Craighead has built SRJC's sports medicine program into something we all are extremely proud of," said president, Dr. Robert Agrella. "His ability as a trainer and his care, commitment and consideration of student-athletes is a model for the person who will follow in his footsteps."

For Craighead, who has tended to injuries of area prep athletes as well as JC athletes, his career extended beyond the Mendocino Avenue campus.

He has served as head trainer for the U.S. men's bobsled team in the 2002 Olympics, working on the 1994 Europa Bobsled Tour as well as the World Bobsled Championships from 1999 through 2002.

He also served as head trainer for the USA Greco-Roman and Freestyle teams in the 1995 and 1998 Pan-American Games as well as head trainer for those teams at the 1991-92 U.S. Olympic Festivals.

He also found time to work as an assistant trainer for the Oakland Raiders when they trained in Santa Rosa at the El Rancho Hotel from 1971-74.

Last year a sore knee slowed Craighead down . . . he had total knee replacement recently.

"I might come back in the spring to teach a class if they need me," said Craighead. "I love to teach, but I would probably only return if a class was in jeopardy of being cancelled."

He procrastinated making the decision to retire.

"When I was in the hospital after the knee replacement, Dr. Agrella called me and I told him about my plans."

Craighead recalls Agrella being somewhat incredulous.

"He told me he thought I had one too many pops of morphine and to call him back later."

Craighead has enjoyed a good relationship with the coaches at SRJC.

"Some coaches are more receptive than others when you make suggestions," said Craighead. 'But if we see a trend -- like a lot of groin or hamstring injuries -- we talk to the coach about specific drills."

Athletic training and sports medicine "have come a long way," said Craighead. "Some techniques are etched in stone, but we have also stayed abreast of the changes."

He would like to see a better level of athletic training in high schools, a feeling shared by his successor, Monica Ohkubo.

"There should be a standard of care and there is a need at the high school level," he said.

Craighead has also seen improvements in preparing athletes for competition to avoid injuries in games and practice.

He has a few favorite memories, such as being on hand when Marty Kinahan's men's soccer team won the state championship in 2001, watching Marv Mays' football team upset Bakersfield in a late-1980s game and "just a lot of great moments in basketball."

One memory is bittersweet.

His daughter, Jenny, was playing for Karen Stanley's SRJC women's soccer team, which appeared to have upset Long Beach CC in the State Final Four championship match.

"We were ahead 1-0 (on a goal from Jenny Craighead) and the ref indicated two minutes of stoppage time," recalled Craighead. "Long Beach tied it six minutes later."

Long Beach went on to win in overtime, denying the Bear Cubs their first state title.

During those emotional moments at the end of regulation and OT, Craighead never lost his professional composure, but he was seething inside.

"In no other sport does the official control a game like that," said Craighead. "That one still bothers me."

Craighead plans to stay busy, possibly teaching and also working with another outside interest, team penning.

"I emjoy working cattle," he said. "I just got back from working on a roundup at a ranch near Susanville."

Craighead has no second thoughts, but knows he will when school starts in the fall.

"I always got excited on game day and that won't change," he said. "I love competition."

You can reach Staff Writer Bruce Meadows at 521-5263 or bruce.meadows@pressdemocrat.com

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