Miler, four others set for Feb. 27 induction
(First in a series highlighting the five members of the Sacramento Running Associationís 2016 Hall of Fame class. Today: Clifton West).
Before Stember, before Mastalir, before Kuphaldt and Fernandez, there was West. Clifton West.
Clifton Westís greatest asset as a runner is hard to define.
Was it his speed? Was it his kick? Was it his mental toughness?
Maybe it was his versatility. He ended his career as the only man in history to run 10.3 in the 100 meters, 20.9 in the 200 meters, 3:44 for 1,500 meters, 4:02 in the mile and 29:22 in a cross country 6-miler. After all, 100 meters is a sprint and the 1,500 meters is a distance race.
All of those things made him a tremendous athlete, but what separated West from the pack was his determination. His drive to improve and build upon each success and each failure to be better the next time out.
"When you love something enough to give your time and your passion to it in good cause, you are blessed and you bring those blessings to that thing," said West, one of five inductees in the Sacramento Running Associationís 2016 Hall of Fame class.
West is as dynamic yet humble a man as he was a runner. The son of a Baptist minister, the brother of a world-renowned philosopher, academic and activist, he found his niche on the track where he experienced tremendous success but was never one to boast or brag. Instead, he took each success and failure in stride and always returned to the journey.
"All life's accomplishments are a collaborative effort.
"The accumulation of every victory or defeat I have ever experienced as an athlete has contributed to everything I have ever tried to give to every athlete I have ever coached and every life I have ever touched."
West, 65, joins long-time Mira Loma and Del Campo High School coach Bob King, high school national record-holder Alex Kosinski, talented ultramarathoner Jim Howard and long-time Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run race director Greg Soderlund in the 2016 Hall of Fame class, which will be honored at the SRAís Hall of Fame and Annual Achievement Awards dinner on Feb. 27 at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento.
Tickets for the 6 p.m. event are $50. For more information, visit RunSRA.org.
The Kennedy High School graduate was the first Sacramento-area runner to win a state track and field championship in a distance event in over 40 years.
West was ranked 13th out of 26 athletes prior to the state meet and had run a personal best in the sections meet leading up to the state championships. Westís personal best was eight seconds behind the favorite heading into the race.
West won the mile at the 1968 CIF State Track Meet with a time of four minutes and nine seconds. His versatility didnít win him that race, but his determination may have had something to do with it.
"My immediate reaction was unbelief. But then I returned to the journey and I was reminded how the accomplishments pale in comparison to the journey," he said.
"The Sacramento running community is responsible for my accomplishments and through those experiences, set the stage for what was to come."
He went on to capture the 1968 Golden West title and then star at the University of California where he set the freshman mile record with a 4:04.0, which stood for over 20 years.
West was a finalist at the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters and after a five-year layoff, represented the United States in 1977 as part of the 4x400-meter relay team that went undefeated on a world tour.
West earned his Hall of Fame spot with a brilliant high school, collegiate and post-collegiate career, but his contributions to the sport did not end there in the late seventies. He went on to coach at both Cal and MIT and locally at Christian Brothers High School.
"The joy and accomplishments as a coach exceeded those as an athlete and I am ever so thankful for both," explained West.
West mentored many young athletes during his time in the sport including Bevan Hart - the former Christian Brothers Falcon who went on to become the 2000 NCAA Champion in the decathlon at the University of California, Clarence Phelps - the pole vault standout who also enjoyed a successful collegiate career at Cal, and Mark Orr - a former track and football standout at Christian Brothers High School who went on to the University of California on a football scholarship and is now the Director of Athletics at Saint Maryís College in Moraga, Calif.
"As a former track athlete that had the privilege of being coached by Cliff, I can say that he instilled not only the techniques of running, but he also taught me life skills such as commitment, integrity, and passion," said Orr. "I know that I would not have been able to embark on a career in athletics without the influence of Cliff West."
West, who lives in Lodi, has two adult children (Erika - 44, Cornel - 42), one stepdaughter (Brianna - 22), four grandchildren (Deja - 24, Roni - 23, Cadance - 9, Corrine - 8) and two great-grandchildren (Kaden - 3, Khameron - 2).
West and the other four inductees join the 22 members already in the SRA Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of 2013 featured Billy Mills, Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith. The 2014 class included Michael Stember, Al Baeta, Patti Gray Bellan, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Harold Kuphaldt, John Mansoor, Heike Skaden Mansoor and Tim Twietmeyer. The 2015 class featured Sally Edwards, Walt Lange, Eric and Mark Mastalir, Jim OíNeil and Bill Finkbeiner.
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.