The names of previous track and field winners are printed too small in the souvenir event program for Stan Gill to read without taking off his glasses. As he scans the categories, his finger picks up the names of Mount Douglas secondary athletes and his memory fills in the rest.
From his arrival in 1963 until his retirement in 1997, Gill cultured a track and field renaissance with Mount Doug. The school laid claim to dozens of individual and team provincial championships.
On Saturday (Nov. 19), Gill and four other coaches, Earl Hockin (basketball), Dave Barker (soccer) Al Cochrane (football) and Mark Townsend (football) will be recognized at Mount Doug’s sports social and coach honouring, with a no-host bar, part of the school’s 80th anniversary celebrations this month.
It takes place in the school’s gymnasium, where Gill’s influence is omnipresent on Mount Doug’s Wall of Champions.
As “the only phys ed teacher” at Mount Doug in 1963, which was at the site now known as Cedar Hill middle school, Gill willingly took on the role. He was, however, a little unsuspecting of just what the school would soon accomplish: provincial team championships in 1969, ’70, ’75 and ’76, with second place finishes in 1968, and from 1971 to ’74. Mount Doug was first again in 1984.
“I guess there was some luck. We had some great athletes,” Gill says. “And I usually had helpers (coaching), especially with high jump, long jump and throwing.”
To hear his pupils now, Gill clearly had a gift and his influence was immediate. In 1966, Stephen Hume was part of a group that “started it all,” Gill says.
Hume, who is now an author and journalist with the Vancouver Sun became the first Islander to crack the two minute mark in the 880-yard dash (805 metres).
“Gill was far-sighted and at the leading edge of training techniques,” Hume recalls. “He coached me in the middle distances but made me work just as hard at sprints and the two-mile as well, which really improved my all round fitness. That summer I broke a Canadian junior record in the 1,500 metre steeplechase the first time I ever ran the event, entirely due to Gill’s coaching.”
Science wasn’t half of it, as Gill understood the art of coaching, says UVic Vikes track and field coach Brent Fougner, who was B.C.’s top triple-jumper when he graduated from Mount Doug in 1975.
One of Fougner’s first coaching jobs was to come back and assist Gill in the late 1970s.
“Gill got the best out of people. I think back on how I coach now and I have to admit, I say ‘How would Stan do this, or, approach this situation?’
“A lot of people will say Stan was instrumental in getting them to continue competing after high school.”
Fougner’s part of a vast network of people who were influenced by Gill. Brent’s wife Trish (Wellman) was B.C.’s top 1,500m runner in 1982, and Keith Butler, who coaches cross country with Fougner at UVic, was B.C.’s top 1,500m runner in 1980.
Because of Butler, Oak Bay High has been the province’s biggest and strongest team, winning six of the past seven combined boys and girls team trophies, including nine straight girls team championships. He is now full time with UVic.
“The way it is at Oak Bay is what Mount Doug was like in 1969,” Gill says. “We had specialists and drew athletes from other sports.”
Saturday’s social is a licensed event, a perfect place to ‘warm up’ before heading across the street to UVic for Mount Doug Idol with David Foster and Nelly Furtado later that evening, said alumni coordinator Les Bryan.
Like Gill, Earl Hockin and Dave Barker no longer coach at Mount Doug but football program creators Al Cochrane and Mark Townsend do. Cochrane and Townsend are the only currently tenured coaches to have been singled out for the sports social and coach honouring. The Rams made football history, putting Victoria on the map with the junior and senior AA championships in 2009.
Tickets for the the sports social and coach honouring are $20 and are available from mountdougalumni.com. The event runs from from 3 to 6 p.m. in the gymnasium. No one under 19 permitted.