FEATURE Brian Weaver's State-d Passion Shows in Big Meet

Juggling the roles as a parent, coach, and the man in charge of the CIF-State Track and Field Championships, Buchanan's Brian Weaver handles it all with a deep-rooted passion for the athletes and the sport. 

2023 CIF-State Track and Field Championships

Friday-Saturday | Buchanan HS, Clovis

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CLOVIS - Need a volunteer? Offer them a burrito.

This is just one of the tips longtime CIF-State Track and Field Championships meet director Brian Weaver has in his monster to-do list of prep for one of the largest State Championship events in the nation. Weaver is gearing up for his 14th year of hosting the CIF-State Meet held on his school's track at Buchanan High School at Veterans Memorial Stadium. 

Oh, and he's also Buchanan's head track coach, who led his team to their first State team title in 2019. And a proud father, whose son will return to run at the State Meet for the final time.

For Buchanan athlete Grace Hutchison, her first experience with the State Championships was volunteering as a junior high athlete for the sweet promise of that burrito and a state meet T-shirt. (Grace, at left in photo with Jordan Hasay and her sister Morgan.)

"(Weaver) is able to put together a massive volunteer workforce with the promise of buying them a State Meet t-shirt and feeding them during the meet," said Hutchison. "He really gets all the kids in the community on board to help work the meet." 

Weaver is in charge of over 350 volunteers for the event, from sand pit rakers and discus shaggers to event officials and parking monitors. Among them include former students. 

"We have quite a few former athletes who come back to help, a minimum of 20 at least every year," said Weaver. "Our head official for girls horizontals is a former student who knows the event. She's so passionate about it and knows what to look for."

The entire Buchanan coaching staff works the meet along with Weaver. 

"Having the State track meet at Buchanan brings a special excitement for everyone on the team," said Hutchison. "It's a huge production to make it successful and Coach Weaver does a great job of organizing everything that takes place behind the scenes and on the track." 

The 2022 and 2023 editions of the State Meet are extra special for Weaver -- it's the years his son, Zach Weaver, qualified for the State Championships and raced at the meet his dad was directing. 

"The best memory of State for me personally was last year watching my son run in the 800," said Weaver. "I remember walking my kids -- my daughter as toddler and my son as an elementary school kid and holding their hands and how excited they were to watch it all -- that's a great thing for me as a dad. Now he's running in it." 

When the elder Weaver was a senior at Hoover High School in Fresno, he missed State by one spot in the 800m and was fourth. The younger Weaver raced in the 800m State prelims last year with a 1:54.52 and will line up again this year in both the 800m and for a leg on his team's top-ranked 4x800m relay team. 

"I wouldn't be the man I am today without (my dad)," said the younger Weaver. "Having my dad as my coach has had its ups and downs. There was always a balance between coach and dad, but in the end all he ever wanted was what's best for me." 

A track and field athlete for two different high schools -- Caso Roble High School in Orangevale where his claim to fame was sharing the team roster with author Nicholas Sparks, and then on to Hoover -- Weaver then ran for the Fresno State Bulldogs. In the spring of 1991, he graduated from Fresno State and in August he took a job at Buchanan as a math teacher. 

"Reflecting back, Fresno State really helped me start the path of the man that I became," said Weaver. "My coaches -- Coach Estes, Coach Fraley and Coach Mogonni -- they saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and they helped bring that out."

Weaver notes how his coaches helped set him on a path that would eventually lead to coaching. 

"It led me to my job, my job led me to meeting my wife and having a family and led me to coach," said Weaver. "I owe (my coaches) a lot."

Weaver called up Coach Marty Simpson and became a walk-on volunteer coach. Simpson saw something in Weaver, and asked him to be a part of the track and field staff. Weaver switched paths in 1994, became a P.E. teacher, an assistant cross-country coach and the head track and field coach. 

"I could spend hours talking about Buchanan," said Simpson. "I've been blessed to be at a great place and work with Brian all of these years, and all of the training stuff that I've been doing for the last 50 years is just taking off."

School districts bid to CIF to host the State meet and in 2007 Weaver made a bid on behalf of Clovis Unified to host the State Championships. 

"The district office and administration are very supportive of track and field, and they see the financial gain for the city itself through revenue from food, lodging and gas," said Weaver. "It's really a community effort to expand community involvement even more -- since it's not a financial gain for the district." 

Weaver notes that Clovis Unified is unique in its four-year P.E. requirement and its strong emphasis on physical fitness holistically.  

"I think it's very, very unique the support they give all of our sports here -- all the sports exist from elementary to junior high and high school," said Weaver. "It's keeping people active and moving has greater benefits than just wins and losses. Mind, body, spirit, I think that's athletics as a whole."

Clovis also plays host to the CIF-State Swimming Championships. 

While Weaver notes there is no benefit to him for running the State Meet, he believes the benefits are shared with the athletes and spectators. 

"Our facility is very spectator friendly and the layout of the stadium is exceptional for everyone. The expansion of the meet to include the paralympic events, unified, and the addition of the 4x800m continues to make it a whole experience for athletes, coaches and spectators," said Weaver. "That's the biggest thing I get out of it. We've helped elevate the meet to a new level." 

Weaver might be one of California's best advocates for the sport of track and field, but it doesn't mean he isn't disappointed if he misses one of his athletes' races. 

"Being a coach while directing the meet is very, very difficult," said Weaver. "I've missed a lot of my athletes' races because situations come up that require my time and energy, so that's a challenge." 

His athletes are used to it. Senior Sydney Sundgren said she doesn't think it's anything special. 

"It doesn't feel like anything extra special to me because it's all I'm used to," said Sundgren. "It's definitely a busy season for him each year preparing us for the State Meet as a coach, but he balances it well. And with him as the director, I think it helps us be prepared because he helps us know what to expect and what we need to do on the day of the State Meet." 

Aside from the challenges of coaching while serving as meet director, emotions are high across the board at an event of this weight and size. 

"The passion coaches have when something went wrong -- don't take it as an attack personally -- sometimes they need to vent," said Weaver. "They're just passionate, they're fighting for their kids. I've learned a lot of tolerance and management skills, (and) your people skills have to improve in this type of role."

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/2019

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Other favorite memories of State?

"Surviving the first one," said Weaver. "Dealing with seeing everyone bond together with bad weather. We've had rain and crazy heat. Winning a State title as a team in 2019 and Shelby Daniele winning the 200m, it actually went to the USATF as an advertisement called 'sharing the moment.' "

Nick Paramo, Buchanan's pole vault coach of 23 years, said he believes Weaver's fairness and adherence to the rules is what sets the meet apart. 

"I admire him the most for being extremely fair and for knowing his rule book," said Paramo. "He is the one who is trying to make sure that all sections are following the rules. If you're not following the rules he gets painted as a bad guy, but if he holds kids and sections accountable track and field as a whole in California becomes better. He has made track and field better, not just in our school or area, but in the entire state of California." 

Weaver takes his role incredibly seriously.

"I'm a little obsessive about failure -- I don't want a kid to have a negative experience because of something I didn't do," said Weaver. "Every year pulling off the meet and it running smooth is something in itself and I'm always amazed 'how did we do that -- how did we make this thing just happen?' "

Weaver's athletes are also thankful for how he has held them accountable not just to rules, but to goals. 

"Coach Weaver has always held us accountable to our goals and encouraged us to be competitive," said Hutchison. "Moving into track season this year, I had big goals to be undefeated in the Central Section (and) the culture at Buchanan helped push me to meet that goal (so) my senior year will be one I will never forget." 

For Weaver's son, his dad is more than just a coach or a meet director -- he's a role model. 

"He truly is one of the greatest coaches in the country in high school sports," Zach Weaver said. "All he ever wants is for people to have fun and to provide as many opportunities for people as possible. He puts other people before himself and I think that is the greatest thing about him." 

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SIDEBAR: Weaver's Top Tips for the State Meet

For Athletes

"Take care of yourself if it's hot, get your t-shirts early. Toward the end of the night they do sell out. You want that souvenir from State. Walk around the stadium -- you can see quite a bit -- it's pretty unique." 

For Coaches

"(Coaches) need to read the handbook, read the handbook, read the handbook. They need to understand the honest effort rule, which has really hurt some kids -- usually in the relays. You only get two coach wristbands per gender and you have to accept that. Make your hotel reservations early. Reach out to meet management if you're unclear about hotels. You can only put canopies in certain spots. Our warmup area is a pretty large size, it's a little crowded for the relays, but otherwise good. Field event warmups may not be as extensive on vaulting, high jumping. Ask questions as a first-time coach. We're here to help. Everybody at the State Meet is there to help."

For Spectators

"You don't have to get there crazy early to get a seat. Our stadium is big and our parking is amazing. If you want great seats, the real spot is on the grass. Canopies are not allowed in the stands at all. Spectators, ask questions, use the information booth. Make sure you don't bring too large of an ice chest -- we have specific ice chest sizes."

For Meet Staff

"Show gratitude to all of those who are working so hard to make things happen and make sure you're shaking their hands -- it goes a long way."

Melody Karpinski is the head XC/TF coach at Montgomery HS (NC) and a regular contributor to MileSplitCA

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Kirby Lee/Image of Sport, and Jeffrey Parenti