Benefield: Cross country coaches lean on each other in wildfires' wake
Santa Rosa High has eight.
Maria Carrillo has four, plus two coaches.
Cardinal Newman has at least five.
Montgomery and Piner both have three.
Sonoma Academy has three.
When area cross country coaches sat around Santa Rosa High co-coach Doug Courtemarche’s kitchen table Monday to help each other find a way forward after the deadly wildfires that have ravaged Wine Country, they shared unofficial tallies of how many team members have lost their homes.
The numbers were staggering. And they could rise. Kids have taken flight and some haven’t been back or in touch since the fires erupted last week, torching thousands of homes and killing at least 22 people in Sonoma County alone.
Santa Rosa High, which traditionally pulls kids from fire-ravaged neighborhoods Fountaingrove and Sleepy Hollow, has at least 70 students who have lost their homes, according to Principal Brad Coscarelli. At Sonoma Academy, the list includes more than 40 of its students and staff, said cross country coach Danny Aldridge.
Piner High is likely to be another campus hit hard by the fires. The Coffey Park neighborhood, a feeder neighborhood for Piner, was leveled by flames.
Even Spring Lake, the traditional race course for both the Sonoma County League and North Bay League, was threatened by flames and its fate as a venue is unknown. Trione-Annadel State Park, a favorite training ground for cross country runners, has been devastated by the blaze.
The coaches, who are not all from the same league, not all from the same division, but all from the same community, met to talk schedules, yes, but also about how to share donations that are starting to come in.
They also, to an outsider’s point of view, came together to be together.
“I think that’s what it became — a counseling group for all of us,” Aldridge said. “We were all just brainstorming, not just how to get back together doing our own thing, but how to be helpful to each other.”
Some coaches have kids chomping at the bit to get back to workouts that have been on hold as the air quality spiked to dangerous levels. For them, time slots at area gyms have been secured and workout plans on treadmills have been suggested.
But for others, kids have expressed a need just to hang out — no workout, just hang out.
These coaches are trying to give every kind of athlete a way back in to a new normal.
Lingering with the smoke is a feeling of disbelief. Coaches, like the rest of us, are just starting to wrap their heads around what has happened here.
Greg Fogg likely feels that disbelief more than any coach around that table Monday.
The head coach at Maria Carrillo not only had four runners who lost their homes, but his family was chased from their house in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 9. Fogg figures it was perhaps 90 minutes after he left that his home of 23 years was consumed by flames.
“I’ve never been down this road before,” he said. “I’m still a little numb.
“We have a lot of memories,” he said. “We have two cars of clothes and photos.”