by Jim Crakes with Liz Green
The connection retired PLNU track and field coach Jim Crakes has with British Olympians spans nearly three decades and two continents. First, Crakes brought British athletes to PLNU. More recently, he took a group from PLNU to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Point Loma Nazarene University’s all-weather track
In 1983, Frank Dick, the head British athletic coach for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, contacted me after he had traveled up and down the California coast looking for a suitable training track for his team. He said PLNU had the best training site, but there was one caveat: we had a dirt track, and he needed an all-weather track. So I told him if he would guarantee me that he would train here at the college, I would guarantee a new track for his athletes. Then I got to work convincing PLNU to install a synthetic track. By the spring of 1984, the new track was in place, and on July 26, we hosted the “Point Loma Invitational Pre-Olympic Track and Field Meet.” Many from the British Olympic team participated and a large number of athletes from teams all over the world competed in the meet also.
The Olympic Games had taken over London
Given my history with British Olympians, it was a delight when I recently had the opportunity to reunite with former student athletes and their families, as I took a group of 20 across the Pond to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games. After 35 years of coaching track and field at the collegiate level, training three Olympic track athletes, and attending six of the Olympic Games in the past 60 years, this seventh Olympic visit was extra special because of the people who came with me. Many of the student athletes I trained have not only become friends over the years, but they have also inspired me in my own life to strive for excellence and to serve others.
Cindy Outlaw (80), who stayed at PLNU a fifth year so she could join my cross-country team, organized our trip to London even though she was not able to travel with us. Her passion for people and adventure allowed us to come together, and now I am able to share some of our favorite moments at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Olympic Orbit Tower
During our time in London, we stayed down the street from Madame Tussauds wax figure museum and had the opportunity to see all the sites, from the historic Big Ben to the brand new Olympic Orbit Tower. The Orbit Tower had stairs up the middle that allowed visitors to climb all the way to the top where there were observation decks. At night, the tower was lit up with different colored lights, and the view over London was a beautiful sight.
First Olympic event
Here is part of our group about to go into our first Olympic track and field event together! From left to right: Vanessa Couch (92), Sandy Sutter (Cuevas) (93), Stephen Wright (my cousin), and Don Cuevas (Sandy’s brother).
Gold medalist Jessica Ennis with Vanessa Couch
One of my former athletes, Vanessa Couch, and I were able to meet British track and field star Jessica Ennis, the 2012 Olympic heptathlon gold medal winner. Couch was very excited to meet the Olympic gold medalist, as she was also a track star. Couch earned NAIA All-American honors in cross country and the 1,500 meters in 1990. Then in 1991, she won a bronze medal in the 3,000 meters at the national championships.
Presenting to an international gathering of coaches
Before our trip to London, Coach Frank Dick contacted me to ask if I would speak at the Global Coaches house in the “Game Ready” program series. My speech was titled, “Philosophies of Coaching,” and I was able to share my insights and experience with coaches from around the world. It was honor I’ll always cherish as part of a trip I’ll never forget.