Stories From The Bluff — Built From Scratch
I always wanted to be a Pilot. Being a Portland native, having a liking for the color purple, and a fan of independent thought, the idea of running for esteemed Coach Rob Conner at the University of Portland was an attractive proposal. Although it didn't happen. I ended up attending college in New York City instead.
Funny how things work out. Even though I didn't graduate from UP, I am forever a Pilot at heart. My wife is an alum, I was an assistant coach there early in my career, and I happily count Rob Conner as a friend and mentor.
I have unlimited stories from my time as an assistant coach, all of which I fondly remember. They are amusing yet insightful. And some are so worthwhile they warrant sharing on occasion. Therefore, I'll host an infrequent mini-series within this blog called "Stories from The Bluff" about the people and happenings during my time as an assistant (2010-2012) and friend of the program (2012 - to current day). Much of the coach I am today was shaped from the experiences and learnings during that potent two year period coaching under R.C. I didn't know it at the time, but I was witnessing the transition of the Portland XC program from a perennial regional contender into a potent cross country national power.
First, however, I want to call out that Rob Conner built the Portland Cross Country program into what it is today, from scratch. He will credit the hard work of every young man who ran in purple as well as the numerous (lucky) assistant coaches who contributed to the program over the years as the source of success. Which is true. But he is the engine that keeps the Purple Army going. He has been at the helm for 28 years. If you include his formative years as a student-athlete there, he has spent over 3 decades on The Bluff. I had hoped to succeed him one day (far in the future) as the next Head Coach of the team. But then I realized UP should simply discontinue the program once he retires, because Portland Cross Country and Rob Conner are one and the same.
His example gave me the courage to create and build High Performance West. So publicly I would like to thank him for the inspiration.
And should you need a contemporary example of what it takes to build something up from scratch into a national force on a modest budget, strong culture, and the highest caliber of people, then look to Rob Conner and the Portland Cross Country program. He'll cheerfully tell you that all it takes is hard work every day for 25 years.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm