Melinda Mawdsley: Saving the best for last |

Melinda Mawdsley: Saving the best for last

My phone appointment with Soroco coach Gary Heide typically is sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesdays.

During track season, we talk about split times and school records. During football season, we talk about rushing yards and defensive stops.

He has so much energy that I often want to jump out of my chair and take off running when our conversations end.

This area is loaded with great coaches. Unfortunately, it is about to lose one.

Gary Heide is returning to Minnesota with his wife and their four children at the end of the school year. I found out when I was working on my track and field season preview in March.

“I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else,” he told me.

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I contemplated how to say goodbye to one of the most dynamic people I’ve met. I settled on a story and column.

I thought both should epitomize Heide the coach — his enthusiasm, his commitment, his passion. For those unfamiliar with Heide, he has been at the forefront of putting Soroco on the Colorado athletics map.

He will give that credit to the athletes because they have responded well to his training and his speeches. But Heide, ultimately, knows how to motivate them.

When I first started covering the Rams in spring 2002, I overheard opposing runners ask Soroco’s athletes where Soroco was.

Now “you can overhear them say, ‘Soroco is coming.’ It’s so amazing,” senior Kyla Schmidt said.

The school’s track and field program has a reputation. Winning nine state titles since Heide became head coach is one reason, but the Rams also have placed at state, won league titles and left runners from larger schools far behind.

Likewise, the state titles are not what I’ll remember most. I’ll remember the stopwatch that doubles as Heide’s spring necklace. He keeps split times on that stopwatch.

“Coach Heide, did you get that split?” I would scream across the track after a relay.

“Aw, no, I missed it,” he would apologize. “I was so excited I forgot to push the button.”

Those exchanges have been common, mostly in the 1,600-meter relays, because of the Rams’ recent talent.

Part of the reason I never bring a stopwatch to meets is because it’s more fun to get times from him.

On Friday, with the clock well past 10 p.m., he didn’t miss any splits, but he did make two mistakes.

He predicted the boys’ 1,600-meter relay team would turn in a time of 3 minutes, 38.7 seconds, and the girls’ 1,600-meter relay team would run a 4:21.2.

They ran faster –ushed by competition and a man barking out times in the exchange zone.

Too bad most teams and fans had left the Craig track before the grand finale.

Heide has a moniker about the 1,600-meter relay.

“We say, ‘Save the best for last.'” Schmidt said.

Appropriate. In his last season, Heide may be doing his best coaching job yet.