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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, June 8, 2000

W A H I N E _ T R A C K

Photo special to the Star-Bulletin
New University of Hawaii women's track coach Carmyn
James, left, chats with an unidentified University of British
Columbia official during a recent spring workout.

New Wahine track
coach ‘the real deal’

By Pat Bigold


She was No. 2 in the final selection process.

But when Gwen Loud-Johnson said no to becoming the University of Hawaii head women's track and field coach, Carmyn James was ready, willing and very qualified.

"You're lucky to have her," said Andy McInnis, head coach of 1996 Canadian Olympic team.

Canadian and American, college and national level, coaches and administrators contacted by the Star-Bulletin all gave strong endorsements of the globetrotting coach, recruiter and lecturer.

"She's the real deal, and if people will get behind her, she can work with bad budgets and facilities because she's done it before," said Dan Pfaff, men's field events coach at the University of Texas.

"She's never shrunk from a challenge," said Alex Gardiner, general manager of the National Sports Center in Manitoba and former CEO of Athletics Canada (that country's USATF).

James, who just turned 38, has been coaching for 20 years. In Canada, she's already made an indelible mark in her sport.

"She is a pioneer in a male-dominated sport," said McInnis.

When she was named to lead the 1995 Canadian men's and women's teams at the world championships in Sweden (a team that included Donovan Bailey), James became her country's first female head coach of a track and field team in a major international competition.

When she was named head coach at the University of British Columbia in 1988, she was only the second woman ever to achieve that level in Canadian collegiate history.

James served as the jumps coach for Canada at the 1994 and 1998 Commonwealth Games. She has also been conducting clinics from the Yukon to Jamaica.

She's been a certified IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation) instructor since 1993.

"She's in the sport for 11 months of the year," said McInnis.

James admits her preoccupation with the sport.

"Oh yeah," she said. "Some people say, 'Get a life, Carmyn.' "

James actually coaches coaches in her travels and is a respected teacher and speaker.

"Her credentials are hard to match by any male in the NCAA system," said McInnis. "She has global perspective and her contacts lend a whole new perspective for Hawaii."

Brian McCalder, president and chief executive officer of British Columbia Athletics, called James "an excellent coach who is enthusiastic, very positive and a great educator. We are going to miss her up here.''

Even more impressive is the fact that coaches outside Canada sing James' praises.

"She's been around the block,'' said Pfaff, who has known James through international events and training camps held at UT. "You don't become head coach of a world team without having done a few things.

"She's a great, great leader and politically very astute. If you can surf the politics of Canadian universities and their sports federations, you're very astute politically. They have champagne taste and beer budgets up there."

James has a knack for doing a lot with very little, and that should make her a good fit for a low-budget UH job.

About six scholarships will be available the first year.

But even though UH's track is weather-worn and inadequate for Division I competition, McCalder said James "is walking into facilities 100 times better than what she had at UBC."

Bob Philipp, UBC athletic director, said James never had it easy at his school.

"She's used to no track," he said. "We abandoned our track, and in fact, we don't have any track and field facilities on the campus."

When UBC, which never gave scholarships, cut back even further on its budget, the full-time position of head track and field coach was eliminated.

At UBC, James' athletes had to run down a hallway of the recreation center to practice the high jump, long jump and triple jump.

"We would lay down five rubber mats, side by side, on the cement floor to create enough width to run an approach for the high jump," said James. "We made it work and had some great athletes. It's a matter of knowing what to do and making the best of the situation."

Sarah McDiarmid, a collegiate high jump champion at UBC, said she is transferring to Hawaii because of James.

"I don't think I could find better coaching in Canada or the closest states," said McDiarmid. "I've been training with her for eight years and I'm really glad I don't have to stop."

McDiarmid will be joined by another of James' top UBC athletes, triple jumper Nicole Kaffka.

James will be on the job here as soon as she secures a working visa.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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