Track undergoes third coaching change in three years

After several false starts and the departure of head coach Shawn Parker, Carmel High’s track team hopes to make a strong return for the 2015 season, with longtime coaches Tom Clifford and Matt King now at the helm. Clifford says he and King are both “really excited and really enthusiastic” to lead the team into a new year.

It’s common knowledge that the program’s past few seasons have been remarkably tumultuous. After a series of loosely-connected controversies—concerning, among other things, political correctness and “old-school” coaching techniques—iconoclastic head coach John Ables was fired before the 2013 track season.

Ables’ departure was mourned by countless students, some of whom, like various assistant coaches, left the team. But despite the disillusionment that some athletes faced, CHS bounced back with the help of new head coach Shawn Parker.
Tom Clifford
However, the 2014 track season was Parker’s last with Carmel.

In a statement addressed to the athletes and friends of Carmel track, Parker took the time to “sincerely thank all the athletes and coaches who dedicated their sweat, their effort and their hearts to our program over the past two years.”

Parker, who teaches at North Monterey County High School, says of Aptos, where he is now head coach, “The school is closer to my home and central to my life as a member of that community.”

Although he is saddened to leave, Parker says that he has “every confidence that the Padres will be league champions in the very near future and that the caliber and sophistication of CHS student-athletes will continue to have an impact on the community and the world.”

Likewise, Carmel’s new coaches are looking to the future.

For a sign of strength, Clifford points to the newly-renovated multi-sport facility. Last year’s team was forced to practice on Carmel Middle School’s track while CHS’ field underwent construction, which made transporting athletes and scheduling practices a serious challenge. This time around, the team will be able to make full use of a brand-new home stadium.

In addition, the majority of the coaching roster from the last two years will be returning, featuring triathlete Alexis Smith coaching distance, CHS teacher Ralph Ward coaching sprints and CHS assistant principal Tom Parry coaching hurdles, along with several part-time teacher volunteers.

Co-coach Matt King—who has 30 years of experience— shares Clifford’s optimism. His goal for the new season, in one word? Balance.

“We’re looking to improve technical proficiency. . . and to expand opportunities for athletes to compete at the state and collegiate level,” King says. “Let go of the past and continue Carmel’s history of excellence.”

Nothing is certain—but if all goes according to plan, this could very well be the year that the team finally regains its stride.

The first official Track & Field practice will be held after school on Feb. 2.
-Christopher Good