By Oliver Lazenby
Gabe Bolton always liked running, even in elementary school when his friends on bikes teased him for running to baseball practice.
In college, he discovered his passion for coaching while assisting his old high school’s cross country team. Now, his passion for teaching is taking shape in two different roles as the current teacher at Ferndale High School is also now the new cross country coach at Blaine High School.
“I guess it goes hand in hand with teaching,” Bolton said. “I enjoy the interactions. I enjoy the growth and the “aha” moments when students pick up something or runners accomplish something.”
Bolton, 42, moved with his family to Whatcom County from Arizona this summer to teach algebra and biology at Ferndale High School.
As a coach, his greatest accomplishments include coaching multiple state champions and a state champion team, but he’s also enjoyed helping kids who were brand new to the sport drop minutes from their best 5K times.
“That’s just as awesome,” he said.
Bolton, who formerly taught in a school district with more than 10 times as many students as the Blaine school district, has lofty goals for his teams. He’d like to see seven athletes from each team qualify for state every year, he said.
Blaine’s cross country teams have struggled to recruit runners in the past, but this year Blaine has two full teams (at least five athletes on a team) for the second year in a row.
They’ll miss Jamie Good who as a senior was the only Blaine runner to make it to state last year.
After the first week of practice, Bolton hadn’t yet picked team captains. He expects sophomores Malachi Crump and Bailey Bleazard to lead the boys in times, and junior Taylee McCormick to be among the fastest girls, along with some incoming freshman.
“It’s a great bunch of kids from what I can tell so far. They’re a pleasure to be around, they’re eager and enthusiastic and they seem to want to work hard,” Bolton said.
Bolton said he takes a “quality over quantity” approach to training, and he hopes to encourage team bonding.
“The type of kid that usually goes out for cross country is someone who can handle struggle,” he said. “Because they have that kind of drive and they go through it together, they usually turn into a tight knit group and are really supportive of each other.”