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Lockwood career is at the finish line

He ends coaching Sahuaro’s cross country teams, but will continue teaching.

JESSIE VANDERSON Citizen Correspondent

Twenty-three years of meetings around the flag pole are enough for Jeff Lockwood.

The highly successful cross country coach at Sahuaro High School recently announced his retirement from coaching. Lockwood has been a part of the school’s running programs for 26 years.

The meeting at the flag pole tradition began with Sahuaro’s first boys cross country coach John Coleman, said Lockwood.

”If you wanted to be a varsity runner at Sahuaro, then starting in August, you had better have had your butt at the flag pole in the center of campus at 6 a.m. for our morning runs,” Lockwood said. ”We ran twice a day. I simply continued the practice when I became head coach.”

Coleman started the program in 1968. Lockwood, a native of Bronxville, N.Y., became his assistant in 1971 and took over in 1973.

”I know what it takes to be successful in cross country, the summer training, the running camps and workshops,” Lockwood said of his decision to retire. ”It is a year-round job. I just did not feel I could put in that kind of effort anymore.”

Lockwood had enjoyed a moderately successful running career at Danbury (Conn.) High. He was the No. 3 runner on the school’s district championship team as a senior.

He came to the University of Arizona in 1967 to major in mining engineering and to try to walk on to the cross country team.

”But after training and working out with the team, cross country coach Carl Cooper told me he did not want me,” Lockwood said. ”This was hard to take.”

Lockwood concentrated on his studies instead, graduating from UA in 1970 with a degree in geophysics, later adding a doctorate. His initial plan was to work in his field.

”But I had a vision one day while riding a motorcycle one summer up to Burlington, Vermont,” Lockwood said. ”I had some job offers to work offshore in Louisiana at the time. But something said, ‘You want to work with kids and continue to run.’When I told my mother I was going to go into education so I could teach and coach, she thought I had gone crazy.”

Lockwood added girls cross country coaching duties in 1978 when that program started.

He logged time as both the assistant and head track and field coach at the school from 1973 to ’93. But cross country is where he made his mark. He was selected the state’s cross country Coach of the Year for boys in 1984 and for girls in ’88.

He coached the boys team to a Class 3A (now 5A) state championship in 1984, and was runner up at the ”big schools” meet in ’79 and ’83. From 1989 to ’93, the Sahuaro boys won 58 straight dual meets.

Led by senior Sergio Peralta and junior Andy Chase, his ’84 team finished the season not only with the state title but ranked 21st in the nation.

Lockwood’s boys won seven division championships from 1983 to 1994.

Lockwood was one of the early advocates for the establishment of girls cross country in Arizona.

”Before they had girls cross country, I would let the girls run with my junior varsity team,” said Lockwood.

With that encouragement, the Sahuaro girls soon achieved amazing success in cross country.

They won four state championships, the first in 1980, then three straight from 1988-90. They finished second in 1979 and 1991 and won 52 straight dual meets from 1987-91. His 1989 squad finished the season ranked No. 11 in the nation.

Lockwood won the Arizona Republic newspaper’s Women’s Sports Award in 1981.

”My goal always was to convince young runners that through discipline and hard work, they could run stronger, faster and longer than they thought they could,” said Lockwood of the secret to his coaching success.

Lockwood exits coaching on a positive note. His 1996 girls team ended the year with a 17-4 record and finished 11th at the Class 4A state meet. The Cougars boys were 16-3 and 10th at state.

Lockwood considers high school all-American Gary Vilas (3,000 meters), state cross country runner-up Marcus Hogle, Brian Pos, Andy Chase, Sergio Peralta and Brad Chvatal as the top boys he coached in his tenure.

The top girls? Lisa Ott (of the 1980 state championship team), Paul Kies (who ran during the 1988-90 seasons), Pam North and Lisa Quaintance (now an assistant coach at Catalina Foothills High School) were the best of the best, Lockwood said.

As for a top foe, Lockwood didn’t hesitate to mention former Santa Rita and UA star Tom Ansberry.

”He was the best high school cross country runner we competed against,” Lockwood said. ”He always was better than anyone on my team. He even beat us when he was a freshman.”

Ansberry, who won state titles in 1979 and 1980, just missed qualifying for the United States’ Olympic team last summer.

Lockwood will continue to teach astronomy and physics at Sahuaro, duties he has enjoyed for nearly three decades.


Cross country coach Jeff Lockwood and the school’s flag pole have storied history at Sahuaro High School.

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