Kishimoto takes reins of Strawberry Shortcut
For nearly 20 years, Mike Kishimoto has been a staple in the local running community. From road races around the county, to working with the Glenwood Springs track and field program at the varsity and youth levels, he’s been there assisting at the finish line.
Today he starts a new race as the director of the historic Strawberry Shortcut, which runs for the 42nd time through the heart of downtown Glenwood Springs, though he was initially reluctant.
“I did not want to be the race director, but I promised Kevin and Joy [White] that I would help out in any way that I could,” Kishimoto said. “I worked pretty closely with Kevin and Joy for a decade, so when they said they were stepping down I figured I would help out wherever I was needed. I certainly wasn’t planning on taking over as race director, but I have a great team around me, and we have quite a bit planned for the future.”
STARTING AT THE FINISH
Kishimoto moved to Glenwood Springs in 1989 to work for the Department of Agriculture as an engineer, though he didn’t become involved in the running community until the turn of the century. He got his start with the Mother’s Day Mile as a tagger and puller while also running the timing at the finish line under the guidance of Nancy Reinisch.
After that, he started volunteering as a timer for other county road races, eventually leading to the Strawberry Shortcut in 2002 under Jim Yellico.
“This all really started with the Mother’s Day Mile,” Kishimoto said. “Julie [Olson] and Nancy [Reinisch] reached out to me in 2001 and wanted me to help with timing at the finish line, so that’s how I got started. From there, I started borrowing equipment from Jim [Yellico] to do the timing, and then I eventually started helping Jim with timing for the shortcut.”
Kishimoto helped out with the Mother’s Day Mile until 2013 or 2014 before stepping away at the same time as Reinisch. Kishimoto stayed with the Shortcut, helping the Whites during their decade-long run as race directors.
The Whites announced they were bowing out after the completion of last summer’s Shortcut, eventually thrusting Kishimoto into the race director role.
“Running has been a huge part of my life here in the valley, obviously from the road races to track and field,” Kishimoto said. “I’m certainly excited to take on this responsibility and to be able to give back to this community in any way that I can.
“Dr. [Greg] Feinsinger always used to say that nobody can hold a road race around here without me at the finish line, so I guess in some ways that’s certainly true now.”
MAKING AN IMPACT
Although Kishimoto is known for his work within the road running circles, arguably his biggest impact has come in the track and field community. He’s served as a Glenwood Springs varsity assistant coach in charge of hurdles for 20 years and as the Glenwood Springers’ youth program president for 15 years.
Under Kishimoto’s direction, at least one Demon hurdler has qualified for the state championship meet in each of his 20 years, with a hurdler making the finals in 18 of those years, and three hurdlers claiming state championships.
His daughter, Jennifer, won a state championship in hurdles, while Wyatt Ewer won a state championship in May in the 300-meter hurdles, edging teammate and friend Bryce Risner in a dramatic finish.
“When they came around the corner, it was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen,” Kishimoto said. “We knew when the Niwot runner pulled ahead briefly that we wouldn’t be out finished. Once it came up on the board that Wyatt and Bryce finished first and second, it was just amazing; that’s a once in a lifetime thing. For us to make that kind of noise out of a small Western Slope place like Glenwood Springs at the state meet was just amazing. Those two boys were amazing.”
Despite an impressive coaching resume, Kishimoto had no hurdling experience.
“I came at it in a completely different direction; I looked at it from a physics standpoint,” Kishimoto said. “We developed our own program, so we do things probably much differently than many other programs do, especially in the 300 hurdles.”
“I can honestly say our program wouldn’t be what it is without Mike,” longtime Glenwood Springs head coach Blake Risner added. “He’s a master motivator, and learned hurdling through many years of research and trial and error … he’s an invaluable member of our coaching staff.”
An outside perspective has led to quite a bit of success and by looking at things from a different angle, Kishimoto hopes to grow the Strawberry Shortcut into an even bigger community event.
“We want it to be a party at the finish line,” Kishimoto said. “We want it to be like the Mother’s Day Mile was at the finish, and just really grow this into a huge community event.”
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