As the Crowe Flies

Coach Jim Crowe in all his (almost) unedited glory.


The CHS cross country team at Districts 2015. Crowe is pictured in the back row, far right. (Photo by Ava Hoffman)

Harry Rubin, Copy Editor

James “Jim” Crowe, Clayton’s new cross country and track coach, has already made a huge impact on his runners after just one year. Crowe has been much more than a cross country coach to Clayton’s runners. He’s been a companion, a life coach, and in some cases, just a plain nuisance. Here’s what people have been saying about Crowe:

Lucas Hoffman: Coach Crowe is an interesting fellow. He definitely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to coaching because he’s been at it for so long. He is very charismatic.

Krai Gund: He’s a funny guy.

Justin Guilak: He’s a really good coach, except he yells at me a lot for not beating everyone else on the team. But, he’s fun, and he comes up with good routes and workouts.

Tom Cormier: He’s a cool guy. Sometimes he’s a bit too aggressive about spontaneous aggression. Like, for instance, if someone had anger management problems, he could be so rash as to kick him off the team.

Damien Stahl: Coach Crowe’s a good guy. He teaches us how to run, and he’s a great coach. He pushes us to perform our best, and he’s really excited about State. He’s a great coach, and he pushes me to do my best, both in running, and as a person, and I feel that he has impacted me.

Krai Gund: I once had a blister on my foot, and his advice to me was to super-glue it closed, so I did, and it really worked and it helped me run.

Lucas Hoffman: So, when I first met Coach Crowe, I wasn’t expecting him to look the way he does. Because I heard he was like one of the top 50 runners in the nation when he was younger, so I was kind of expecting to see a young, fit guy, so I was kind of taken off-guard when I saw him. And I first met him by him showing up, well actually not showing up, to meet me for runs during the winter.

Tom Cormier: So, over the summer, I kind of punched a hole in the wall, and he told me to “shpackle” it up and it worked pretty well. The “shpackling” entailed going to Home Depot, getting some good “shpackle,” finding good sandpaper and a putty knife, and then walking home, spackling it up, and then covering it up with Post-it notes. The lessons Crowe taught me were to always have “shpackle,” and to own up to what I did and tell my parents. And they weren’t mad because I told them.

Alex Szabo: He’s an interesting and lively character. And he brings an interesting element to our cross country team. It’s hard to put into words what that interesting element is.

Andrew Withrow: Coach Crowe is the most beautiful, amazing coach I have ever seen in my life.

Andrew Wang: He’s made me into the person I am today. He’s taught me a rigorous lifestyle and the healthy ways I should live my life and the type of attitude I should live my life with.

Lucas Hoffman: So, last year, I messed up my knee because of Coach Crowe, but Coach Crowe really knows his stuff about running injuries, so he helped me through it. He had me and another runner doing high mileage that we weren’t used to yet, which caused the injury. He has a similar injury to me, so he knew all the techniques of alleviating pain. It is arthritis in my right knee.

Coach Jim Crowe: Here’s how my fantasy cross country league works. Okay, we have a draft. Everybody picks ten runners. And then after the draft, each week, you pick seven runners to run. And then, anybody who’s not picked is an automatic free agent, so usually you have seven runners and you have three on your bench. Now occasionally, one of your guys may not run well, so you say, “hey!” and you pick up a free agent. I picked up two free agents, and they’re both probably going to be all-state runners, thank you very much. I picked up John Luder from Rockhurst and Victor Mugeche from Blue Springs. Well, there’s two other coaches and two alumni runners… No, three coaches–the coach from SLU is in it, too. So far, we’re in first place. This is the last week. Oh, shoot yeah. I got like a five or six point lead. When I win, I’m going to get a free Woofie’s hot dog.

Nick Lee: When I first met Coach Crowe, I thought he was an old guy.

Coach Jim Crowe: So, this is just hypothetical. If I had some anger management issues, and my coach said that there would be consequences, and then a week later, I do the exact same thing, I mean, that would tell me that the guy doesn’t want to be on the team in the first place. Hypothetically.

Nick Lee: Coach Crowe’s a lot nicer. A lot of people thought Levine was pretty intimidating.  And Coach Crowe is quite a bit thinner than Levine. And I feel like he’s more active because he’ll go on runs with us, whereas Levine would just tell us what to do. I enjoy the fact that he goes on runs with us. It makes for some interesting entertainment along the run. Coach Crowe will sing his hill and dale song whenever we run on Hill and Dale, and he will do imitations of everyone on the team.

Victor Xie: So, on one of the first days of the track season, we were given a nutrition packet, telling us all these foods we should and shouldn’t eat. I feel like that shows us how much Coach Crowe really cares about us and how well we do. He’s such a caring guy, especially about our health and well-being.

Mac Redohl: Crowe is pro.

Josh Stueck: There’s the Halloween story. It was during the potluck that we always had at Crowe’s house during the night before the District meet, and it happened to fall on Halloween, so we got trick-or-treaters. We didn’t happen to be prepared with anything like candy, so we started out giving things like soda, or bottled water, and eventually we got desperate and moved on to bagels, and finally, a potato. The parent did not let the kid keep that.

Mary Kate Gelzer: So, after a workout at Flynn Park one day, when we were running back, Coach Crowe took this huge snake and threw it at like half the girls on the girl’s team, and we all started freaking out cause it was just so creepy. The snake had been like half run over by a car and everything, but Crowe just went ahead and picked it up.

Gracie Morris: Coach Crowe adds a great sense of humor to our practices. One time, we were running, and we asked him to tell us a story, and he told us “The Wizard of Oz” and he went on for like twenty minutes. He just kept talking about it, and singing, and doing different voices. The whole deal.

Mary Kate Gelzer: Okay, we have a new style of training. Last year, we did a lot of three to four mile intervals, whereas now we run like eight miles, just very regularly, and it’s not as big of a deal because we just have so much more endurance now.

Coach Jim Crowe: Coach Crowe? I hate the guy. Because he’s old. I just hate the guy. I’ve hated for years. About 61 years, I’ve hated this guy. This guy, Coach Crowe, the guy’s a jerk. Yeah, a real A-hole.

Josh Stueck: I hate him and I hate everything about him and I want him to go away and I never want to see him again and he made me sprint for a mile. It was actually only like six eighths of a mile, but I’m still really mad about it.

Mac Redohl: Every time we run past a port-a-potty, he says, “Look boys, there’s my office.”

Josh Stueck: He told me, “Hey, run!” And I ran.

Ari Siegel: There was one reason I was able to stand the treacherous  six to nine mile daily runs after seven long hours of school. It was Crowe. What kind of lazy schmuck would I look like if I quit running when Crowe, a 60+ year old man, was doing it? What more motivation do you need? Coaches usually coach but the game changer is when the Coach practices because then he’s going through just as much shit as you and that inspires you to not wimp out but to tell yourself if this old man can do it, then Hell, I must have the ability to do better and that’s what kept me going each run. There’s one guy he talked about more than anyone else and that was Joe. If you have ever run with Crowe, you’ve heard about Joe. And if you haven’t, I guess you’ll just have to ask him about Joe next time you see him. With Crowe we would talk and laugh during those long runs and he would make them enjoyable. We would do impressions of people– Arnold Schwarzenegger, a New Jersey tough guy, New Yorkers– and talk like that during long runs.

Ari Siegel: Alright. So my junior year, I missed some practices because I had a lot going on, so whenever I’d go to practice, he’d always say, “there’s Ariiii!”

Ari Siegel: Crowe would bring popsicles for us. At the end of each practice, the guys who got back first would get the fudge Popsicles, which are to die for after a run. But if you didn’t make it back quick enough, all the guys who got there first have eaten all the fudge Popsicles, so you’d be left with only regular Popsicles.They’re good too, but not the same as fudgesicles, which also help push you to finish off fast even after long runs in 90 degree weather it was all about finishing practice and not giving up.

Ari Siegel: So, jokes were very common on our runs, so junior year (last year) we dedicated a day for them, and it was joke Wednesday, so whatever joke you thought of during the week you were encouraged to keep them to yourself until joke Wednesday. Also, we would sometimes play this game to keep our minds off running and the game goes like this: Name a movie– let’s say “The Martian.” The next movie would have to start with an “N” because the was the last letter of the movie so then you would say “Neighbors” and then everyone would think of a movie that started with “S” and the goal was to keep it going as fast as possible during the run. It was a group effort.

Ari Siegel: If you asked any of Crowe’s athletes if they disliked him, you would be very hard pressed to find someone who had even a single complaint. I mean, there were times when I was running that I laughed so hard my abs felt numb and I barely could could keep running.

Leul Mesfin: So he told me, you’re simply just not fast enough to to be a sprinter and these guys will blow past me. He told me after he said I wasn’t fast enough that he would give me a week with the sprinters and let me run the meet that was at Clayton and if I beat people I could stay and if I didn’t I would go back to long distance. And I proved him wrong. At the U City meet, he said, “try and beat 70 seconds,” for the 400 meter, and I broke 60.

Matthew De La Paz: So Coach Crowe’s great because he actually goes out with us on runs. When we go out for practice, the whole team more or less runs together, out to the same destination where they do the workout. I really like how he has a really statistical approach to running. After every meet, he makes and prints out a spreadsheet of all our mile splits and distributes it to the entire team. You can see your pace and your improvement over the previous year. He puts an emphasis on actually maintaining a more or less even split throughout and makes it our goal to go faster on the last mile.

Anthony Morris: That old dude? Coach Crowe that [expletive deleted], he that [expletive deleted]. I love Coach Crowe. He the best coach. I love Coach Crowe.

Justin Guilak: So, one time, we were running, and no one else was with us. It was just me and Coach Crowe. So, we had gotten to this water fountain, and they had just put new concrete in at the ground, and Coach Crowe kind of forced me against my will to write my initials. I feel kind of guilty about it sometimes. He made me break the law.

Andrew Withrow: Justin was more intimate with Coach Crowe than I ever was. I mean, Justin went on with private talks with Coach Crowe, running with him while they left all of us in the dust. Justin spent more time than any of us running with Crowe.

Hugo Hoffman: During track season, whenever we were on a run and we’d get stopped at a stoplight, and the walk indicator would turn on, the signal for the blind people would go off, he would always imitate the sound it made, saying, “Hu-go, Hu-go, Hu-go.”

Hugo Hoffman: If Crowe has never insulted you, you’ve probably never talked to him, or he’s probably never talked to you.

Alex Szabo: He’s always well prepared. He knows a lot about the area of where we go on runs everyday. Every day, he draws a map of our run on a whiteboard. So, he brings a lot to the team in that aspect.

Lucas Hoffman: Whenever I need to get need to get new running gear, Coach Crowe is always willing to get me the employee discount at Big River Running. Coach Crowe’s last day at Big River is actually coming up pretty soon, so he advised the whole team to come, and the clothes are on him.

Hugo Hoffman: So I guess being a male with long, curly hair, I guess to a lot of people, I might appear as to what they might imagine a stoner to look like, so naturally, that’s how coach envisioned me, like the first day he saw me. So, whenever he does an impersonation of me on our runs, he always portrays me as a lazy, I guess gluttonous stoner because he also jokes about my weight often. The other day, he was feeling kind of sick, so he asked me if I had any sort of drugs that would make him feel better.

Lem Lan: So, one day, Coach Crowe decided to call me Lemuel instead of Lem, and so Gabby Boeger felt the need to correct him, and because of that, Coach Crowe didn’t appreciate being corrected, so he started to call me Dennis instead. So that was a running joke throughout the whole season of Coach Crowe just calling me Dennis instead.

Hugo Hoffman: This season, one of the main competitors that could’ve prevented the girl’s cross country team from advancing to state from Districts was John Burroughs. John Burroughs has this one runner, she’s a major contender in all the races, she won Districts last year. So this year, Coach devised a plan where I would form a relationship with this top runner on the John Burroughs team, and then, the day prior to Districts, I should dump her. So Districts of this year, she actually passed out at the finish line and was passed by a couple of MICDS runners, which actually gave Clayton the upper hand over John Burroughs and allowed us to advance to State this year, coming in second at Districts. Crowe was telling everyone that she was so distressed and distraught from our relationship coming to an end that she passed out.

Justin Guilak: So, today, Coach kind of forced me to go on this run, and it was raining really bad. I was struggling to run, and then Coach grabs me from behind and starts stretching my shirt and then he starts yelling at me, “c’mon maggot!” and then he made me pull him up the hill. Later, as we were coming back, we were almost back and I was feeling pretty excited, but the Coach grabbed my shirt again and started telling me to pull him.

Josh Stueck: Well, the uninitiated aren’t allowed to know a lot about it, but at U City, every new runner has to run down to this big old cemetery, and they have to go down and hit the sarcophagus. They have to go down there, stay down there for ten seconds, and hope that they don’t get killed by the mummy. Then they come out, and the next person goes in. It basically was our most important rite of passage.

Brandon Ford: I really didn’t know Coach Crowe that well, because during track, he spent more time with the distance runners. What I do know is that he’s short and he looks kind of like Tom.

Coach Kurtis Werner: So, I hired James Crowe this year with the intentions of us scoring in the top four in State, and obviously, you saw the results today at the meet. The boys were 15th and the girls were 10th. It just hasn’t really worked out that well. I think he’s a pretty abrasive person, always grabbing students, throwing them around, harassing freshmen. He generally uses vulgar and obscene language on the cross country course. He’s talked a little too much about his personal life, in terms of his three or four ex-wives, his illegitimate children, his binge beer-drinking opportunities that are presented to him. It’s just been a little bit of a different fit for him, coming from University City where it’s like if you had shoes, you were able to run. Here at Clayton, we have these things called spikes, and we go out and compete very, very competitively. But, you know, he’s just trying to get kids to come out, and he’s not used to this atmosphere. I think he’ll come around and I hope he’s fully clothed next year. THat’s been a big distraction on the course this year. So, we’re learning. This has been a learning opportunity for us as a team, and I think as we come back next year, you’re going to see Coach Crowe with his training regimen a little more intense and a little more suited to our needs here as we make it back to State once again.

Coach James Crowe: I started running, I was like a freshman in high school, and we had track for our freshman gym class, first class. I was the fastest freshman in the mile. I ran like a 5:10 mile as a freshman in gym class with no training, so they were like, “you have to go out for cross country.” I actually didn’t want to do it, because I was like, “what’s cross country?” and they were like, “you have two run two miles on a course,” and I was like, “two miles! That’s crazy. Why would anyone want to run two miles?” So, I reluctantly did it, and I ended up being pretty good at it, and I ran cross country in high school, and then I got a scholarship to run at Northeast Missouri State, which is now Truman. I ran pretty well there. Then I got out of college, and I didn’t know what to do, so for two years, I lived in a house with these guys in Kansas City, and we would train and work part-time jobs, and we would train and try and make the Olympic team. Two of them did, but I didn’t, so then I came back to St. Louis, and I kind of sat back and didn’t run anymore. I was doing some volunteer coaching with Lindbergh High School, and then I decided I was going to make a comeback. Then, in 1983, I got hit by a car. It crushed my legs, and then I was out for five years or so. Then, I decided that I would just try and see how good I could be, so I made another comeback, kind of. Then I moved back to U. City, and I knew the coach over there, Charlie Beck, and he was retiring, so I went and asked him if I could help out with coaching the team, and they didn’t have any distance coaches, so they said, “Hey! Why don’t you come and be the new distance coach?” and I said, “okay, I’ll do that.” So I came over there, and we won five District track championships, two District championships in cross-country. We won two State track championships. Then Coach Keller, he was the head track coach, he retired, so the new head coach came in, and he didn’t want to hire anybody from the old regime back, even though we had been together for 13 years. So I kind of got kicked around and then I knew Coach Werner, and he said, “Hey! I’m stepping down as track coach, so why don’t you come over to Clayton and be our new head track coach, so I was like, “I really hate being the head track coach, but I’d like to get back to coaching,” so I came over to Clayton and I coached track, then Coach Levine stepped down from the assistant cross country job, so I said, “hey! I had stayed as the head cross country coach at U. City, and I would really like to stay at Clayton because it would be a good carry-over to go from head track coach to cross country coach, back to track coach,” so I took the assistant coaching job, and here I am now.

Coach James Crowe: I got hit by a car in 1983. The girl was pulling out of Parkway West High School. I was running down Clayton Road, and there’s a T there. There’s a stoplight, and she didn’t hit her brakes at the stoplight, she hit the gas. So she came across the road and hit me, and I landed up on the hood of her car. Now, there’s a big hill there, and we’re rolling down this hill, and I’m thinking, you know, I’m probably going to get out of this okay, I’m probably just going to be bruised, and everything, except when we hit the bottom of the hill, I was flipped off the front of the car, and I landed on the ground, and she rolled over the top of me. So, luckily for me though, it had rained the night before, so I got kind of pushed down into the mud. It didn’t feel like I was hurt, so I thought I was okay. I figured, well, If I could just get up, I would be okay. Then this guy came running down the hill, and he was like, “don’t move.” I was like, “mister, if you’d help me up, I think I can walk away from this.” He said, “don’t move” and then he ran over and started throwing up, so I knew I was probably in trouble. I looked down at my legs, and my knee was on one side of my leg, my foot was facing the other side of my leg. I figured that wasn’t right, so I looked over at my other leg, and my foot was kind of laying on the ground. My knee was kind of pointing one way, and my foot was pointed the other way and was flopping up and down, and I wasn’t making it flop, so I figured,  you know, this is probably not very good. Then, they called the ambulance down and another guy came and he was holding me down and not letting me up. But I wasn’t really feeling much pain yet. So, the ambulance comes, and they put me on this stretcher, and the ambulance driver is like, “holy crap. I’ve never seen anybody’s legs like all twisted up like this.” Then I knew, man, this is not going to be good at all. Then I get to the hospital, and I’m starting to get some real pain, real bad pain. So they take me in to do the x-rays, and they put me on this table, and this guy comes in and flips me one way, and my mom was out in the other room. He flips me one way, and I’m screaming, and he flips me the other way, and I’m screaming, and he flips me another way, and I’m screaming. Then he goes out and he goes, “That’s all we’re going to have to do. You’re going to be fine. We’re going to get you some painkillers and everything.” Then he comes back in and goes, “Well, we kind of screwed up. Our x-ray camera didn’t have any film in it, so I’m going to have to do it all over again.” He does it all over again, so by this time, I’m not really in a very good mood at all. So then they come in, and they take me up to this room, and they give me a shot of morphine, which was pretty darn good. I gotta tell you, I mean, morphine is awesome. I can see why people get addicted to it. Anyway, I felt pretty good after that. Then they came in and told me that they were going to do these operations. They were going to put nuts and bolts in my legs, where my knee was. They were going to put a rod up where my foot was and a screw to hold it in. By that time, I was on morphine, so I didn’t really care what they were going to do to me. That was fine. So they did the whole operation. I was in a cast for my foot that came up above my knee, and I had another cast on my leg for my knee that had an opening where they did all the surgery. Then I went for six months like that. Then, they brought me back into the hospital and they took the nuts and bolts out of my leg. They left the rod in my ankle. They left the screw in. About six months later, they took the rod out, and they took the screw out. About a year later, I started back running again, and eventually, I was able to run again.

About three years ago, I was out running with the U. City team, and I tripped over a sidewalk and tore the meniscus in my knee. I went to the knee surgeon, and he came in, and it was the knee that had all the operations on it, and he said, “Well, I thought you were coming in for a knee replacement, cause that knee is messed up.” I was like, “I would prefer just to have the meniscus, if you could just do that.” So they did orthoscopic surgery on my knee. Then, about six months later, I was back running again. So that’s pretty much it.

Coach James Crowe: Basically, I kind of follow the coaching philosophy of my college coach, who was also Coach Werner’s coach, Ed Schneider, who followed the policies of Arthur Lydiard. Basically, I’m considered a higher mileage coach, and I’m traditionally long to short, and I a three week cycle. I break my season into a base phase, competition phase, and championship phase. Base phase, we’ll do a lot of distance work. During the week, we do two days of hard running and one day of long distance and distance runs in between. Our hard day during that base phase might be mile repeats, a tempo run or fartlek. As we get to the competition phase, I’ll start shortening the intervals. The repetition will shorten a little bit, but the intensity will pick up. We’ll do something like 1000s. I try to keep a hill part throughout those two phases. Championship phase, we’ll go even shorter, faster workouts with less distance in between them. I try and get them to peak for the District and State meet. It usually takes me about a year to get to know each kid, so I’ll prescribe Maybe some kid will be sort of a faster muscle twitch fiber kid, so they might do a little bit more of a shorter intense workout, while the more aerobic kids would do more of an aerobic workout. This year, everybody did pretty much the same thing. As I get to know the kids in the future, some kids might do a little bit of a different workout than other kids.

Coach James Crowe: I really got to change. I’m a terrible influence on everybody. I didn’t realize what a horrible influence I am. I vow to change. I will be more of a compassionate, empathetic, and a better person overall to these kids. I swear.

Coach James Crowe: Yes it is. It’s my name. If you notice, though, I’d like to point out that it’s C-R-O-W-E. There is an ‘e’ there. Also, my name is James, not Jim. I was never called Jim until I came to St. Louis. I’m from South Dakota. Up there, I’m called James. So, my great-grandfather was actually called Seamus. He’s Irish. So, Seamus is James. My great-grandfather was Seamus, so then my grandfather was James, because they Americanized it. My father was James, and then I’m James. It has nothing to do with race. Nothing at all. As a matter of fact, I would also like to point out that I have black children, my wife is black, so I really don’t like the fact that people associate me with being a racist, okay? I have no problem with anybody. I get along with Jewish people, I get along with Asian people, I get along with Buddhists, I get along with Muslims, I get along with black people. I’m not too particularly fond of white people, as it is, but I’ll tolerate ‘em.

Samantha Bolourtchi: So, coming to Clayton was kind of foreign to me. I joined cross-country so that I could make new friends, and running was something I really loved to do. Within two practices, I fell in love with the sport, but even more so with the people, the coaches. Being a freshman and coming back from State just puts a big smile on my face. To be where I am today, it’s just incredible, and I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the help of my coaches. Every race, I would ask them, “What am I doing? Who am I passing? What am I looking for?” Their wisdom showed me a new light of the sport. It’s not just about running and being fast. It’s really strategic and it’s mental. It’s definitely not one of those massively popular sponsorship sports, and yet it has everything you would really need to grow, not only as an athlete, but as a person, and I’m really thankful to be where I am today, and none of it would’ve been possible without my coaches. Coming to State was scary, and I was extremely nervous, but I went up to Crowe and I said, “What am I doing and what am I supposed to be doing? I know it’s running, but help me out.” He literally went through every turn of every mile of the course with me. He told me, “They’re going to come out really fast. Don’t pace with them. You’re going to kill all of your speed at the first mile.” Then he kept going. “Second mile, you need to start moving up, passing people, stay with your friends, push each other, try to pick up speed. Once you get to the third mile, you know you’re almost done, but don’t slow down You’re tired, but you’ve got to pick up speed and just push up the hill, firehouse hill. Once you get to the top, you can pass as many people as you want because they’re all going to slow down.” That was the main reason I was able to place where I did was because of his encouragement. His pure joy for the sport just kind of transferred over to me and I’m just really appreciative of that.

Quotes from:

U City Runners: Josh Stueck, Ari Siegel

Clayton Cross Country Runners: Lucas Hoffman, Krai Gund, Justin Guilak, Tom Cormier, Damien Stahl, Alex Szabo, Andrew Withrow, Andrew Wang, Nick Lee, Mac Redohl, Mary Kate Gelzer, Gracie Morris, Hugo Hoffman, Lem Lan, Matt De La Paz, Samantha Bolourtchi

Clayton Track Runners: Victor Xie, Leul Mesfin, Anthony Morris, Brandon Ford

Coaches: Jim Crowe, Kurtis Werner