Seeing the Camas High School cross country runners back on the track brought a twinkle to Mike Hickey’s eye.
It has been four months since the Camas girls team captured the Class 3A state championship trophy and the boys placed sixth in Pasco, but the coach still feels like it was yesterday.
“When we won state by two points, it was so humbling,” Hickey said. “The coolest part was seeing the looks on the kid’s faces. Until we all saw we could do it on that one day, I don’t think any of us thought we could do it until we did.”
After speaking at the Washington State Cross Country Coach’s Association Convention Jan. 13 and 14, in Everett, a humbled Hickey accepted the award for 3A Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year. He thanked his fellow coaches Chris Gragg and Karen Goritsky, and the Papermaker runners for pushing themselves and their teammates every day.
Hickey also took the opportunity to thank the mentors in his life. While attending Hudson’s Bay High School, Hickey was coached by Bob Lynn in cross country, wrestling and track.
“I loved Bob’s fiery personality,” he said. “I think it really comes through in my coaching style and philosophy.”
Coaches Mike Hodges, Clackamas Community College, and Bill Dellinger, University of Oregon, helped Hickey break new boundaries as an athlete and a coach. Hickey ran for Hodges between 1992 and 94, before returning to Clackamas as a coach in 1998.
“It was a great opportunity for me to ask a lot of questions about this sport from a man I really admired,” Hickey said. “I could really feel the love and admiration he had for coaching kids. He always taught us to take care of the little things to prepare for the big things.”
From 2001 to 2005, Hickey coached with Tony Veney at Portland State University.
“[Veney] was this amazingly charismatic guy who believed in the human spirit,” Hickey said. “He believed we could get excellence out of our athletes if they bought into it and sold out. He always said you had to sell out for the team and for yourself.”
All of these mentors molded Hickey into the man he is today. Another person he could always count on for advice during his 15 years of coaching has been Sherrie Geiger.
She first met Hickey at Hudson’s Bay and followed his career as an athlete and a coach. When Geiger stepped down as the Camas cross country coach after the 2007 season, she chose Hickey to be her successor.
At first, Hickey found the task of preparing high school runners for the road to state quite daunting.
“College athletes are recruited and then you work them hard to get better. In high school, you’re recruiting through the halls and coaching every facet of the runner. From the very beginning, they don’t know anything or very little,” he said. “After my second year, I thought I may never win a state title here and I’m a pretty good coach.”
What Hickey had to do was go back to the drawing board and use the tools he learned from his mentors. Two years later, he coached Camas to that state championship he always dreamed of.
“It’s humbling when you know how hard it is to motivate someone to work as hard as they can, and it’s humbling when you see them actually do it,” Hickey said. “All of those girls gave everything they had on that day. It took every single one of them to do that for us to win.”