Retiring CHS cross country coach leaves long legacy

Longtime Claremont High School cross country coach Rill Reeves, right, has announced his retirement and will be replaced by his current assistant Chris Ramirez. Reeves has been with the Pack for ten years, eight as head coach, during which time the team has won multiple championships including four state titles. He was also the distance runner’s coach for track and field, another job Ramirez will inherit. COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |
It may be an overused cliché but it’s truly the end of an era for Claremont High School’s distance runners.
Following the team’s trip to the CIF California State Meet last weekend, Bill Reeves announced he had official retired as the Wolfpack’s cross country coach. For ten years, eight as head coach, Reeves has been the cornerstone of a program which has been a shining jewel for CHS athletics going back decades.
Under Reeves’ tutelage the Pack never lost a Palomares League championship, racked up two CIF Southern Section titles for the girls and two for the boys and claimed three state titles for the girls and one for the boys. In 2016 Owen Bishop was state champion in his senior year, and in 2018 Maddie Coles was CIF champ and runner up at state as a freshman.
Even with that impressive track record it’s the time spent with the team Reeves will miss the most.
“My favorite quote is ‘the journey is better than the end.’ I remember going on trips for tournaments, Idaho, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Washington and New York,” Reeves said. “I just remember the time with the kids, mainly just going to practice and camp and travel trips, those were great times.”
Following retirement Reeves will be spending at least part of his time in Holland, Michigan, where his daughter and her husband live with their four-month-old daughter, Olivia Grace. The plan is to be a snowbird for a while, traveling to Michigan for the summers and returning to his home in La Verne for the winter months — although he cautioned that once his wife Cyndi retires in June, they may end up Michigan full time.
“I get the feeling if my daughter has another grandchild, my wife is going to want to stay there so we will just see how it goes,” he said. “It’s been 37 years. I enjoyed every minute of it, but leaving my wife at home on Fridays and Saturdays for traveling is a strain on her and it’s time to do another chapter of my life and be ‘go-pa.’”
Currently, Reeves’ plan is to stop coaching, but he may be asked for guidance from his assistant, Chris Ramirez, now the new head cross country coach. Ramirez will also inherit the duties of coaching the distance runners on the track and field team, which Reeves led for eight years.
“He may get a phone call from me every now and then or every week,” Mr. Ramirez said.
Reeves coached at Azusa Pacific University 20 years ago and Ramirez was one of his runners. The two had a chance meeting three years ago which led to Ramirez becoming the assistant in Claremont.
“I was running in Marshall Canyon, which coach Reeves’ house goes right up against. And I was coming out to my car to finish my run and saw him in the front yard and he said come coach with me. And the timing allowed for that because I had just quit my full-time job at Disney,” Ramirez said.
At Disney he worked as an imagineer in production for new live entertainment at the company’s parks and resorts. “I was in the Aladdin Musical Spectacular at California Adventure, he said. After 13 years, part of which included driving from his home in Ontario, he decide to quit and focus his energy on a real estate business he runs with his husband, Sam Atkin.
Getting back into coaching was definitely in the cards for Ramirez who said that just before the chance encounter with Reeves he was planning to visit Chaffey High near his home and ask if they need help with the cross country program.
Ramirez admits he has little time to work at the real estate business, as he also works as an assistant coach for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps cross country.
At the state meet last weekend the girls were tenth in their division and the boys came in sixth. During Reeves’ time the boys have never finished lower than sixth, while the girls have a second, third and fourth-place finish in addition to three state titles.
“We had some really great performances from Mt. Sac through CIF State Finals. We still had people dropping their time and running their PRs,” Ramirez said.
“We do go six days a week pretty much year round so the culture is pretty strong,” Reeves said. When we had COVID our numbers went way down and this year was our first year back and the numbers across the board at many schools were still down, but here at Claremont went up a little bit.”
Ramirez said the biggest lesson he got from Reeves was patience and showing empathy, particularly when it comes time to finalize that season’s roster, which in Claremont means some runners are not going to make the team.
“It’s very difficult when you have a program that kids naturally gravitate toward because it has such a rich tradition. And when kids like running it’s always hard to say no to them, or we don’t have enough coaches or enough room on the team. That is the hardest thing,” Ramirez said. “I think what I have learned from Reeves is just being patient and graceful and understanding and listening. Those kinds of things that are going to make him a great grandpa.”
“It’s been a pleasure honestly,” Senior Rubén Denson said about working with Reeves. “He has left a legacy here at Claremont High School. We saw a lot of progress in our race times and in our training after four years being with the program, it’s been huge to have him be part of my years here.”
“I am really proud of these kids and where they have come. This was obviously a tough almost two years leading up to the culmination of this season. It fells like a really long [single] season, it doesn’t feel like there was a break,” Ramirez said. “And it’s just been a really long time. I think that mental toughness was really built up and I definitely saw it.
Claremont’s distance runners will get a break but a short one with track and field workouts beginning in the next handful of weeks.



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