Doug Petrick is passionate about running, even though he admits to being a “mediocre runner at best.”
The Upper St. Clair resident is so enthusiastic he’s convinced two of the country’s best coaches to come to Pittsburgh for a clinic he has organized.
The USC Cross Country Track and Field Coaches Clinic will run from 9:25 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 26 at Upper St. Clair High School.
“This is something that I have been thinking about for seven or eight years but nothing started to become concrete until two years ago,” said Petrick, who coaches USC’s cross country and track and field teams.
When Petrick started attending and helping Jay Johnson with his Colorado Running Clinics during the winter months, the idea to bring outside coaching ideas to the area clicked. This year’s clinic features two renowned coaches –Daniel Caulfield and Doug Soles.
A 10-time All-American and a four-time national champion while competing at the NAIA and NCAA levels at Adams State in Alamosa, Colo., Caulfield returned to his alma mater and coached the Grizzlies to multiple national titles, including a sweep of the men’s and women’s cross country titles in 1998 and 2003.
A native of Ireland, Caulfied currently coaches the cross country and track and field programs at California University of Pennsylvania. He has mentored a combined 22 NCAA All-Americans during his tenure with the Vulcans. He has also coached Cal athletes at USATF national championships and national footraces.
Caulfield held the Irish indoor national record in the 800 meters with a time of 1:47.21 for over a decade. He also ranked among the top 50 in the International Association of Athletics Federations World rankings. Caulfield was the European Cup Champion in both the 800- and 1,500-meters and was the runner-up at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden twice.
Meanwhile, Soles is the head track and field coach as well as cross country coach at Great Oak High School in California. In the fall, both his boys and girls cross country teams advanced to the Nike Cross Nationals Championships in Oregon.
This spring, he guided the Wolfpack to its sixth straight boys grand sweepstakes title and seventh in eight years, along with a second consecutive girls grand sweepstakes championship and fourth in five seasons at the 61st Mt. SAC Relays at El Camino College’s Murdock Stadium in Torrance, Calif. Great Oak won girls relay titles in the 4x800, 4x1,600 and distance medley. The Wolfpack added boys relay crowns in the 4x800 and 1,600 sprint medley.
Named the national Coach of the Year for boys and girls teams several times, Soles has led the cross country teams to district and state titles multiple times during his nearly 20-year tenure. He has coached six individuals to state champions from 2010-16.
A graphic design teacher at Great Oaks, Soles enjoyed a running career that featured all-state acclaim when he attended Seaside High School before he excelled at Western Oregon University in track and field.
“When I went to Boulder,” said Petrick, “it opened my eyes. I was able to connect with national caliber coaches from other states and have a chance to be influenced by some of the best minds in the sport. Jay (Johnson) has been very influential to me and his ideas have helped impact the athletes and the programs we run here at Upper St. Clair. I just wanted to share with others ideas from other coaches from around the country.”
Because of the clinicians’ background, Petrick said coaches at any level, from middle school through college, could benefit from attending the seminar.
“Any coach regardless of age level, there is something for you. Something you can use to get your athletes to the next level,” Petrick said. “We have coaches that offer a unique perspective because a guy like Daniel was a record holder in Ireland, excelled in college and then moved into the coaching ranks. Coach Soles’ high school teams consistently compete at a high level in both state and national level meets. These guys know how to get more students athletes to move on to the college level and how to get the most out of their workouts. So who better to model your programs after than some of the best.”
Petrick was never the best runner. He competed for Elizabeth Forward because he said he loved the team atmosphere and camaraderie. It also embraced goal-setting that sports demand.
After high school, he set his sights on becoming an architectural engineer. He earned his degree from Penn State University and worked for a time in Atlanta.
“Like running,” he said, “I was at best a mediocre engineer.”
So his mother, Pam Cignetti and stepfather, Jess Cignetti, encouraged him to follow their passion. They both were educators, employed at California University of Pennsylvania. Petrick earned his teaching certification as well as a master’s degree from that institution.
Petrick acknowledge his parents guidance as well as his family’s support. He and his wife, Kinley, have three children, Kaia, 11; Kenzie, 7 and Declan, 5.
“My parents and my family were very influential and supportive,” said Petrick. “Today, I am a much better teacher than I ever was an engineer or runner. And I hope to keep learning each year.”
Employed as a physics teacher at USC for 17 years, Petrick was the 2018 WileyPLUS Nexty Award Winner in the category of Best Overall Course. The school uses the management software for its advanced placement physics course. He has coached 13 seasons, 10 of them as the head track and field coach.
Petrick still runs of course. Because of his responsibilities, he says his farthest racing distances are 5Ks, 3.1 miles, and on days he does not run, he walks or rides the stationary bike in the basement.
“Everybody has X units of energy,” Petrick said, “and I try to expend mine on being involved in things that I am passionate about.”
The clinic is one of them. As exciting as the event is, the reality of it did not sink in until Petrick booked the airline tickets for the flight of one of his clinicians.
“I’ve been trying to remain calm, but now I realize this is going to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot to do, but I focus on the positive gains that will occur because of the clinic. I think this is going to be good for sports, the program and the community.”
Petrick said he owes his involvement to the running public.
“I feel like it’s somebody’s job and responsibility to do things like this,” he said. “I have had mentors who have done this for me and have been conduit for a lot of changes we have implemented in our program. So, it’s a way of giving back for sure. This is just another way to learn and grow.”
Thanks to running, Petrick, 42, said he has grown as a human being.
“There are so many lessons you learn from it. Like delaying gratification and being a better person,” he said. “It helps your thinking and keeps you healthy. But I look at it as an extension for me for my coaching. There is no better way to spend my time than working with young athletes.
“So, I am really excited about this clinic. It’s something I have envisioned and it should benefit the athletes and their performances. The hope is to make them better runners than they are now and that coaches can learn from some of the best how to help them reach their goals.”