Catching Up with A Kansas Coaching Legend: Van Rose

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Charles Redfield

Shawnee Mission Northwest cross country coach Van Rose is the dean of harrier coaches in the state of Kansas.

He started the program at the school when it opened in 1969 and he still going strong with the recent completion of the 2015 season.

During his tenure at the school in Shawnee, the quiet, unassuming coach has one of the best records in the state. His Cougar team have amassed 35 state titles with 21 coming on the boys side and 13 with the girls.

His boys' team captured 14 consecutive Class 6A state titles starting in 1994 and winning the 14th in 2007. Not many coaches can make that claim.

Rose started running at Milburn Junior High in a running club.

His sophomore year, he ran for Shawnee Mission North for legendary track coach Merlin Gish and cross country coach Fred Lyon.

In the fall of 1962, the Shawnee Mission School District opened its third high school, West, and Rose lived in that attendance area.

He qualified for state in both his years with the Vikings in cross country, but not in track. That was the time that Jim Ryun was running well at Wichita East.

Rose decided to attend Kansas State, but did not even run cross country his freshman year for the Wildcats.

"I went to Coach Dodds (DeLoss) at the beginning of the second semester of my freshman year and asked if I could come out for the team," Rose says. "He said sure thing.

"I was hardly someone that any coach would actively recruit."

And running for DeLoss Dodds (who retired as Texas Athletic Director in 2014) was the single most important event in his life.

"Coach Dodds was awesome," Rose says. "So much of my approach to coaching comes from him. He was organized to the nth degree. Coach was always looking for better ways to do what we were doing.

"Everything that we did had a physiological reason to it."

Rose became a good college runner under Dodds. He was the track captain for the 1968 season.

"I left high school having run the mile in 4:30 and the two miles in 10:12," he says. "I left K-State having run the mile in 4:15.8 and the 2 miles in 9:03.8 and these were done in the same meet, about 45 minutes apart."

Rose has developed a relationship with his parents and runners at SM Northwest.

"I have developed a number of close friendships with the parents of some of my runners," he says. "I have a number of runners who stay in touch with me.

"They come to see me. They bring their children to meet me. They invite my to their weddings and they give me hugs. They take care of me in a number of ways outside of the athletic arena. This is more important than state championships."

He noted one occasion.

"I was at a track meet and a young lady who was competing in the meet and came up to me and said, 'I just wanted to meet my mom's coach.' That took my breath away."

What is his coaching philosophy?

"I believe in progression," he says. "I believe in consistency over an extended period of time. It's all about mileage.

"Start small and gradually increase the number of miles you run over an extended period of time. It is not about talent or genetics."

And he believes in other items in addition to running.

"I believe in doing all sorts of things that don't involve running that contribute mightily to the success of the runner, like core stability exercises, strength training, pool running, recovery exercises, nutrition, yoga and sleep," he says. "You have to do these extra things. They give you the strength and flexibility to log a greater number of miles."

And the veteran coach has used all this to build a successful program at SM Northwest.