The first California state cross country meet took place on Saturday, November 28, 1987. Since then, some of the state's brightest and most successful cross country coaches have amassed multiple team and individual championships. Of course, the roots of cross country in California go back FAR before there was a state meet, and this state was a breeding ground for legendary coaches in the "pre-state meet" time period. Some of the Golden State's best have bridged between the two eras, starting before the state meet came into being and continue to coach to this day. Every week through the end of cross country, we will feature one of these Coaching Legends, a past or present figure that helped shape the sport in the Golden State and make California the best state in the nation for cross country!
Bill Duley had a timely entry into high school cross country coaching. A 1975 graduate of Agoura himself, he began at Agoura in 1985, just two years before the first California state championship. Prior to that, he coached with the Las Virgenes Track Club, helping to shape several individuals and teams that earned both Southern Section and state titles in the spring season.
Duley's Agoura girls teams were legendary in the early state meet years, finishing 2nd in the first three California championships and then winning three straight team titles from 1990-1992. His work with individual talent was arguably even more noteworthy: Agoura athletes won 9 individual state championships between 1987 and 1994, including the first three boys' Division 1 state titles. Those were won by Bryan Dameworth, the 1989 Kinney (now Foot Locker) National Champion and a three-time finalist, but he is not the mist illustrious Charger grad. That honor belongs to Deena (Drossin) Kastor, who won the first girls state championship in 1987 and then won again her junior and senior years. Deena was a four-time Kinney/Foot Locker Finalist who went on to an All-American career at the University of Arkansas and then to hold eight American records in distance races up to the marathon. Duley also coached Ryan Wilson to the 1992 Division 2 title, and helped Amy Skierez win in D1 in 2993 and in D2 in 1994. (And let's not forget Kay Nekota, who finished 2nd in D1 twice during her career!)
Coach Duley (sans mustache, back right), with his 1990 state title team.
Kastor credits Duley with helping her to build the foundation for her stellar collegiate and professional career:
Bill is an amazing coach! When he first discovered I had talent and confronted my parents, we were all taken by surprise, but under him I was able to earn a national cross country championships title at 12 years old. But more so it takes a good coach to both recognize talent and bring out the best in runners no matter their enthusiasm or natural ability. Because of his great coaching he could make eager kids athletic and athletic kids eager, making successful individuals and teams. I remember as a youth runner, Bill always made practices fun. We'd run through the Santa Monica Mountains which was an epic exploration at such a young age or we'd exhaust ourselves in hill repeats and he'd break a watermelon on the curb and we'd dive in to for the refreshing pulp. His racing advice was to "commit to the finish once you take the lead." After winning my first professional cross country National title, I framed the singlet and had a plaque made for Bill that said "Thank you for molding me in this sport that has given me so much in return." I couldn't be more grateful for having his joy of running guide me the first decade of my running.
Regarding his coaching, Duley told Runner's World in 2001, "I've had about as many different training principles and philosophies as I've had runners, but my number one principle is that every individual is going to react differently, so I try to work individually with each athlete or group of athletes."
I was a member of the Agoura track and cross country teams from 1987 through 1989, so I had the opportunity to witness Coach Duley's training first-hand. Looking back now through the lens of my own coaching career and my involvement with the sport through MileSplit, it's clear just how ahead of his time Bill was. At a time when the popular wisdom in much of American running was to focus on speed, he sought a return to the higher mileage training of past years (something that has now become commonplace among top-flight teams). He also instituted weight training for injury prevention, which was widely frowned-upon in the running community at the time for fear of "bulking up" (a misconception that even extended into sprint training for many years). In the end, though, it was his positive motivation, emphasis on consistency in training, and tactical mind that I remember the most (and drew upon numerous times in my own, much less storied coaching career).
Duley ended his official cross country coaching career at Agoura in 2001 (and stepped down from track duties 6 years before that), but he has remained involved in the Conejo Valley running scene. He founded Future Track Running Center in Agoura Hills, which he continues to operate to this day (and has a branch open in Westlake Village, as well). Through the affiliated Future Track running club, he helped coach adult runners from recreational road racers to competitive professionals.