Coach Ben Kirk on why Coal Ridge track continues to achieve
Hours before one of his athletes poured a cooler full of ice water over his head, Coal Ridge head track and field coach Ben Kirk stood beside a fence separating the track from the away bleachers at Ralph Stocker Stadium.
His baseball cap pointed forward and a hydration pack slung over his right shoulder, the 37-year-old coach said he’s been blessed.
“Our kids are there every day, they’re working hard,” Kirk said. “We haven’t had a single kid that’s like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna take off at summertime.’ And it sounds like there’s a lot of teams that are dealing with that.”
Following Friday’s events at the Multi-League Championships, a two-day meet performed amid oven-like summer temperatures typical to the Western Slope, Coal Ridge manufactured team championships in both male and female divisions.
And there are a lot of athletes to celebrate.
Every one of them is gifted, hard-working and, of course, prolific in winning. Tthe Titans harvested 13 top finishes to close out this past weekend’s events.
Dedication, however, outweighs talent, Kirk acknowledged. And dedication comes from Titans athletes possessing a strong desire to be better than themselves each day.
“We have a chart in the gym that we write on every week of where our points came from, and each and every area of track is up there,” he said. “And it’s a competition, you know? Who got the most this week in throws or jumps or hurdles or sprints, and they take pride in we all have to be tough.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Peyton Garrison clocked a winning time of 12.29 in the 3A 100-meter hurdles on Friday, then nabbed two more golds in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. DI-bound Titan Marin Simons churned a 5-02 to take the Multi-League high jump title. Not to be outdone, Lydia Karren edged out fellow hurdle star Raeanna Nelson to capture the crown in the 300-meter hurdles event.
Meanwhile, Division II-bound Phoebe Young has already this season notched an 11-4 in pole vault. And don’t even get started on the girls’ relay teams collecting four top-place finishes on Friday.
Then, the boys. The Titans’ 4×200 meter relay nabbed first place. Eddie Salazar won triple jump. Shayne Sandblom won pole vault.
In addition to team success, Kirk himself was named the “Best Coach for the 3A Division of the Western Slope and Southwestern Track and Field League Championships.”
But Kirk doesn’t fully pat himself on the back for all the triumphs. Instead, he said he hopes this makes it into the paper:
“I think one thing we have that a lot of teams don’t is we have nine coaches — adults — that have been with us for a long time, that have a huge passion for track, and they’re experts in their area,” he said. “You know, so it’s not me.”
On Thursday, a Titans athlete ranked fourth in triple jump got first place.
“That’s not me, that’s our jumping coach,” Kirk said. “Now, Taylor Wiescamp just broke the school record in the discus. I don’t know how to throw a discus. No, that’s not me at all. We have great men and women that spend a ton of time, and I truly think that’s one of the best things we have that a lot of especially smaller schools don’t have, is that many specialty coaches.”
It was about 13 years ago when Kirk, a former Coal Ridge football coach, fell in love with coaching track and field. This happened after about a couple years of being an acting sprinting coach for his wife, Meggie Kirk.
“So we just kind of made the natural switch to me as the head coach and her as the assistant,” Kirk said. “So she does our distance and mid-distance stuff.”
Leading up to this point, Kirk grew up in Hotchkiss playing baseball. He’d even go on to play a little Division III ball at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, before graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in exercise science and sports medicine.
“I love the science of exercise,” he said. “You know how to change the body. What things can’t you actually change? We actually talked about that all the time as a team.”
But more important than anything else Kirk imparts onto his pupils are what he calls “the three Cs”: courage, confidence and competitiveness.
“Being competitive in everything you do in life, no matter what you’re doing,” Kirk said. “Being courageous — you know, in track, there’s a lot of things you’re afraid of … but doing it and then proving to yourself that you did it, which leads to the third one, which is confidence.”
Confidence teaches the athlete something indelible.
“(That) I can do that,” Kirk said. “I have more worth than I thought I had.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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