Time is an elusive concept at best, either dragging with seconds lasting an eternity or flying by causing dizziness at the rapid pace of events, but 40 years is a period that is really hard to grasp. Forty years ago the price of gas was .36 cents a gallon, the price of a house was $24,000, and the stock market was at 683. Moses spent 40 years wandering around Sinai with the Israelites. That’s how long Jim McLachlan has spent wandering around Millwood leading the Eagle-ites (West Valley cross-country) to the promise land, the State Cross-Country Meet…until this week. He has decided it time to move on to do other things…coach cross-country with his son Sean at the Community Colleges of Spokane. Former assistant track coach and current assistant principal at WV, John Custer said “It is rare to find a teacher/coach that stays with the same school that long. It really is an end of an era. Jim always built amazing connections with kids and passed on his passion for cross-country and track to them. Many of those kids have gone into teaching and coaching because of him. “
Jim, “Otis” as his athletes know him, started his teaching/coaching career at WV in the fall of 1970 after graduating from East Valley in 1966 and student teaching at Central Valley in the spring of 1970. He remembers “I was hired in June of 1970, eleven months after man landed on the moon. That first year I didn’t know what I was doing but had a good group of veterans.” “I cringe now at the workouts I had them do.” Jim says at the amount of interval/track work he heaped on them. His first team went on to place 4th at the State Cross-Country Meet despite his claim of not knowing anything. He obviously did know what he was doing and Eagles have been one of most successful XC programs in the state.
Under his guidance the Eagles have amassed over 300 dual meet victories (boys and girls combined) in four leagues; The Border League, which included teams from the valley and Mead before the GSL was created, the Frontier the League, Greater Spokane League, and now the Great Northern League (Frontier League version 2.0.); 24 league titles; 14 State placing teams; and two State titles both with girls in 1977 and 1987. One year he calculated the miles he spent on a school bus traveling to and from meets and it would have taken him round trip from Spokane to Minneapolis (2000+ miles.) So during his career he has traveled around the world three times over. Through changes in training philosophy and league opponents, wins and losses, and bus rides, the positive influence he has had on countless people remains the one constant.
WV has had its share of successes but those relationships he fostered, the student-athletes he inspired, and the coaches he mentored are his true legacy. Jim gave me my first opportunity to coach and has obviously greatly influenced my coaching philosophy. Over the ten seasons I spent at WV one lesson in particular sticks out…We had two rambunctious freshmen on the team during one track season and they were never where they were supposed to be. One day, they again went off the designated route and were breaking bottles on the road. I wanted to say “goodbye” to the two young athletes but Jim said “What else can you do to influence their lives besides kick them off?” That has stuck with me for 16 years now. We as coaches are here to hopefully be a positive influence in kids’ lives and build relationships.
Former WV star and assistant coach Tonian Kasparian-Gray confirms this positive influence. “Otis is one of the most influential people in my life, as much or more than my own parents. Every day in English class he told me I could be like Mary Decker and the other runners in magazines he fed me, which motivated me to work as hard as I could. I wouldn’t have made it through high school and definitely not be where I am today without him.” Tonain was a member of WV’s 1987 State Championship Team and recalls “He didn’t play favorites and treated all equally, 1 – 7 we were all his favorites. He made all of us feel loved. We were a family. My husband, son, and I consider Otis and his family part of our family.”
He is truly one of the most beloved people I know and this is really evident when you look at his “friends list” on Facebook, with hundreds of former athletes, students, and colleagues still wanting to be apart of Jim’s life. It really is quite impressive. I am sad to see Jim retire especially since my own son runs for
Jim is moving on to build more relationships with another team, CCS. Son Sean is excited about Jim’s move saying “I’ve always wanted to coach with my Dad. I’m sure he will enjoy coaching at a different level and he will help us out quite a bit.”
Good luck at CCS and please come watch Alex and Eagles, I’m sure there will be someone you know!