Former Greyhound cross country coach led team to success from 1975 to 1985
ATASCADERO — Former Atascadero Greyhound cross country coach and world history teacher Gary Kuhn was inducted into the Rio Mesa High School Hall of Fame this past October for leading the Spartans to their first-ever CIF Championship in 1968. Kuhn, who retired from teaching in 2002, also led the Greyhounds cross-country team to success during his tenure, especially between 1975 and 1985.
“My first year was 1967 at Rio Mesa high school and I was working as a PE teacher and a track coach,” Kuhn told the Atascadero News. “I was there for three years and in my second year, I inherited a good little team [cross-country.] I think it was one of the first years of the school’s existence. Then, in 1968 we won the small division CIF cross country title. That was the first championship in the school’s history because it was a brand new school.”
Rio Mesa High School was founded in 1965 and was, indeed the cross country team that brought the Spartans their first piece of hardware. This year, on Oct. 9, during the Spartans’ homecoming game against Oxnard, Kuhn and his entire cross country team were immortalized in the school’s Hall of Fame and honored before the game.
“The ceremony was awesome. It was interesting because it was 54 years later that we were recognized as the 1968 champions but it was really nice to be recognized at Rio Mesa’s Homecoming game against the Oxnard Yellowjackets,” Kuhn explained. “They introduced us before the game and it was incredible to see all those guys. We had a great time there and then we had breakfast the next morning that lasted three hours because we were just sharing stories from the past. It was just a great time.”
Kuhn left the Rio Mesa program after just three years and headed out to Michigan before eventually finding his way back to California with a job offer from Atascadero High School. After a year of serving as an assistant coach, Kuhn inherited the cross country team and turned them into one of the top teams in the section year in and year out.
“In my first year we only had six guys on the team and they weren’t the best runners,” Kuhn remembered. “I don’t mean this in a mean way, but they were kind of just the PE rejects that didn’t have a team to call home.”
Kuhn attributes a large part of the success of his Atascadero teams to a coaching clinic that he attended at American River Community College, which was and continues to be a top distance running program in the state of California. Kuhn came back to Atascadero and implemented what he learned, and the results flew in.
Kuhn and the Greyhounds won the Los Padres League nine out of 11 years in the mid-’70s and ’80s and even came home as CIF runners-up.
“We were runners-up one year for CIF while I was in Atascadero and our main rival those days [In CIF] was a school called Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, and they were tough to beat because they could recruit,” Kuhn said. “They would recruit kids from four or five different states around, New Mexico, Arizona — that type of thing — and they basically ruled the 1-A Section.”
Although Kuhn retired in 2002, he has kept busy with his passions, which are teaching and coaching. For the past 20 years, he has been touring around, giving history presentations at senior centers across the county. In recent years, he has even taken up coaching with a local standout runner, Tyler Daillak.
Daillak, who readers might remember from 2017, gained notoriety as he was finishing in the top 10 in local 5Ks and setting records as a 10-year-old running phenom. In the summers between in seventh- and eighth-grade seasons, Daillak has been training with Kuhn and has already begun to rack up a few records for the Bearcats in his freshman season.