Interview with Flintridge Prep boys coach, Ingrid Herskind

1) What was your own athletic experience (photo above courtesy of Pasadena Now)?
I was mainly a club swimmer all through grade school and in college and came from a running family. I ran cross country and track in high school because we didn't have a swimming team at my high school and I wanted to compete for my school. I also ran because my whole family was into it.

2) What led you into teaching and coaching? My mom was a teacher and she was an inspiration to me.
I had coached while I was in college and really loved the competition and working with younger kids. Teaching and coaching offer the best of both worlds---the world of the mind and the body.

3) What was your first coaching assignment and what did you learn from that experience?
My first cross country coaching assignment was at the Randolph School down in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a great place to learn the ropes about coaching. At the time, girls only ran 2 miles for xc...sort of a weird concept to me and my runners. I also realized that I had a lot to learn about training in the heat!

4) When did you start at Flintridge Prep? What other sports have you coached aside from cross country at FP?
I started teaching at Prep in 1995 and became head coach of the boys' program in 1997. I have also coached the distance runners in track and coach swimming.

5) What are some of your proudest achievements at the school as a coach?
That's a tough one. There have been many great moments. I think one of the best comebacks came in 1998 when we lost the CIFSS finals by one point and came back the next week to win the State championship. This was a great turnaround for the guys who bounced back after a really tough loss.

6) What are some of your proudest achievements at the school as a teacher?
We lost one of our graduates and former CC runners in Afghanistan in 2014. He was very special to all of us because of his commitment to others and his love of American History. They named an honor after him, and I was so proud to have won that award last year (photo below courtesy of Flintridge Prep). It was a touching moment for me because of how much he meant to us as a team.

7) From when you first started coaching cross country to now, what do you feel have been some of the biggest changes in your coaching style as well as your season plan?
I think I was pretty clueless when I first started coaching and thought of running like I thought of swimming...boy was I wrong. As far as big changes...I think I've learned how to be more patient in the summer and have learned to work more on helping my runners gain running strength that will take us into the season.

8) What does a typical training week look like for your team with a Saturday invitational? Length of long run for your varsity athletes? Any workouts that are repeated throughout the season? Strength work? Morning runs?
Nothing all that unusual...long runs are usually about 90 minutes (up to about 13-15 miles) We love to do LT (threshold) runs over varied terrain on the trails behind JPL. The LT workout is one of our favorites. We do strength work around 2 days a week--specialized for core and stability. Our varsity guys do a few morning runs a week and we mix in some good cross training. Because I was a swimmer, I enjoy putting them in the pool to aqua jog or swim.

9) During your time at Flintridge Prep, who have been some of your coaching mentors that you have been able to bounce ideas throughout the fall season?
I've been really lucky to have been in a great league with solid coaches who I also consider to be good friends. Eric Sun, from Mayfield, and I check in quite often about what's working and what isn't. Mark Evans from CV is also great to talk to. We also have incredible coaching clinics down here at Mt. SAC!

10) What is your advice for a young coach with aspirations of building a competitive cross country program?
Build a strong culture of running at your school. Create some fun traditions that will bolster your team mentality and keep it interesting and challenging. We also travel to Mammoth in the summer -- something all of the guys look forward to. This is the capstone to the summer.

11) The depth of competition in cross country continues to grow in California as well as the rest of the nation. What do you feel are some of the reasons for the continued growth of our sport?
I've seen a huge change in the quality of runners in California--especially Division 5. 20 years ago, a guy could run 17:00 and be in the top 5. I think one of the reasons for the increase in quality of running can be attributed to the increase in the quality of coaching. Coaches are more knowledgeable and doing more research about how to coach high school runners. Also, coaches in our sport are really supportive of other coaches. Accessibility and generosity are key in our sport.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks !!!