The Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar Coach-Athlete Story

Galen Rupp after winning a silver medal in the Olympic Games

What does current Pope John Paul II High School President and founding principal Ron Edwards in Lacey, Washington have in common with world coach Alberto Salazar and world class runner Galen Rupp?  

Alberto Salazar is one of the best coaches in the world. Galen Rupp is one of the best runners ever in the United States. Rupp won a silver medal in the 5000 meters at the Olympic games and a Bronze medal in the marathon.  Salazar has served as Rupp's coach since high school.

Salazar also coached Olympic 1500-meter Gold medal winner Matt Centrowitz and Mo Farah. Farah won gold in the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters in the Olympic Games. Salazar  currently coaches Yomif Kejelcha who just this month broke the world record in the indoor mile.

Mr. Ron Edwards was the principal at Central Catholic High School (CCHS) in Portland, Oregon when Rupp began his running career as a freshman in high school and Salazar was the cross-country coach at the school.  Edwards was ultimately responsible for hiring Salazar at Central Catholic, approving and signing his contract. Edwards was also the principal at Central Catholic High School for 13 years.

Ron Edwards is the current President at Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey, Washington.

As the current cross country coach at Pope John Paul II, I am fascinated with the history of the Salazar and Rupp story. It was a pleasure sitting down with Ron this week to talk about the details behind the Salazar and the Rupp connection at Central Catholic High School.  The key highlights from our conversation yesterday are below.

Ron mentioned to me that Galen came to Central Catholic High School in 2000 and graduated in 2004. Rupp played soccer his first year at the school. During this same time period, Alberto Salazar’s son transferred to Central Catholic High School. During the transfer process, the CCHS athletic director asked Alberto if he would be interested in coaching cross country.  Salazar accepted the high school cross-country coaching job and the rest as they say is history.

According to Ron, “Mrs. Rupp mentioned that her son was interested in running but also liked soccer to some key member of the Central Catholic High School staff”.  Dave Frank the current cross country coach at CCHS and math teacher was hired just prior to Galen’s arrival.  He coached with Alberto when Rupp was at Central Catholic.  Frank along with Salazar were influential in helping Galen get off to a good start in his cross country and running career.

As Mr. Edwards recalls, Mr. Frank and Mrs. Rupp came up with a plan to get Galen involved in cross country that fall.  The soccer coach at CCHS previously had coached Alberto Salazar's son in club soccer so the conversation about allowing Galen to run with the cross-country team was a fairly easy conversation.  All the coaches worked together in order to help Galen compete in both sports.  

Galen showed up for his first Saturday work out with the CCHS cross country team. The high school team at the time was not yet known for their cross-country success when Galen joined the team. Galen was easily the best runner on the team at his first cross country Saturday workout.

Galen made the decision to just run cross country and track at the beginning of his sophomore year. He gave up soccer to focus on his running career. Ron is quick to point out that this was Galen's decision without pressure from Salazar.

During his remaining years at Central Catholic High School, Galen blossomed into the great runner that he is today. Rupp won several state championships, set state records, and became the best high school long distance runner in the nation. In fact, Rupp became the high school American record holder at 3000 and 5000 meters while attending Central Catholic High School.  

As Ron reflected back in time, he mentioned that it was a great move by the athletic director to ask Alberto to coach the cross country.  According to Ron, “It is an understatement to say that Alberto knew what he was doing”.

Ron remembers Alberto as being exceptional at reading where Galen was in his training and encouraging him at the right moments to go for tougher and even more challenging goals. This was something that Salazar did for all of his high school cross-country athletes.

In retrospect, Ron also makes it very clear what a great coach Alberto was at Central Catholic. He speaks very fondly about how Salazar was able to get Rupp and others to really stretch and go after their God given potential.

Ron also mentioned that Galen grew in all areas of his life at Central Catholic, not just in his running career.  Ron told me one story that relates to Galen's personal growth at the school. Here is how Ron remembers the story: “I am sure Galen inspired others especially his team mates who in Galen’s junior year, I believe, was invited to the Nike Invitational which featured top teams from across the country. I not sure where the team finished but it was competitive. While Galen was an individual standout he was always a team runner who was concerned about his teammates success and well-being”.

Ron also recalled that that Galen was awarded one of the school’s prestigious “Seat of Wisdom” awards at graduation. The award was given to students who lived the goals outlined in the school’s student profile of what a graduate should be like at graduation.  Said another way, the award embodied what CCHS wanted to see in their students at graduation.   

Strong faith in God, a humble nature, leadership, excellent academics, and true care and service for others are virtues that come to mind when I think about this award. Galen was well on his way to living these virtues by the time he graduated from Central Catholic.  

According to Ron, there were times when things were tough for Galen especially when he was injured one year and was having a mediocre track season. Ron recounts how Galen was having some fun wrestling and clowning around with family and got injured.  Ron noted that you would have never know that Galen was injured by his daily attitude at school. Galen was always positive and gracious during this period of his life.   

Galen could have also easily become self-absorbed and arrogant with all of his success in high school. However, he was very humble and a grateful for his God given gifts during his tenure at Central Catholic. Ron remembers Galen as “always a gentleman, respectful, and a quiet leader”. 

There you have it, two American running icons who started their coach-athlete relationship at Central Catholic High School under Ron Edwards’ leadership.  Mr. Edwards witnessed day in and day out the making of one of the greatest coach-athlete relationships in American history.

Thank you, Ron, for sharing some great moments from Rupp's and Salazar's life at Central Catholic. I hope your insights will help inspire other young student-athletes to go for their dreams. 

Blessings,

Coach Weber

Philippians 4:13

Mr. Ron Edwards is the current President and founding principal at Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey, Washington. Mr. Edwards has been in education now for 50 years. I have the pleasure of working under Ron’s leadership at Pope John Paul II High School as the head cross country coach and distance coach in track and field. 

For more information about Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey, Washington go to http://www.popejp2hs.org/

Ron Edwards is in the picture above helping a student at Pope John Paul II High School in Lacey, Washington