PORT ANGELES — Three years ago, Port Angeles head track coach Bob Sheedy made a promise to track stars Gracie Long and Maddie Dougherty that he would stick around until they graduated.
Sheedy stuck to his word, watching Long win the state championship in the 1,600 (and finish second in the 3,200) and Dougherty place in two events at state. The one and only track head coach the Port Angeles High School girls have ever seen retired after the end of the season.
“The end with Gracie was her setting school records. That was phenomenal,” Sheedy said.
Sheedy coached both Dougherty and Long into track and field. Long will attend Corban College in Salem, Ore., while Doughtery Wednesday signed her letter of intent to attend Central Washington University.
“He’s been a part of my journey,” Dougherty said.
“It made me feel that he wanted to put the work into us,” Long said of Sheedy’s promise.
Sheedy had been a track coach at Port Angeles High School since 1972. He’s been around as long as the girls’ track program has been around. “I’ve coached every girl in track in Port Angeles,” he said.
“It’s been a good run,” Sheedy said. “I’ve retired before. They’ve brought me back four or fives times.”
Specifically, Sheedy had retired before as the school’s cross country coach. But, he’s returned a few times to lead the team now coached by Roger Johnson.
Sheedy said Gracie’s younger sister Millie, a freshman this year, wanted him to stick around until her senior year. Sheedy explained, “Millie in three more years, I’ll be 80 years old.”
“It’s hard for me to leave, but it’s best for me to get out of the way,” Sheedy said.
He said this time his retirement is for real, though he won’t totally let go. While he will not be the full-time head coach, he said he will still chip in coaching the girls’ distance runners.
“I won’t leave those kids in the lurch,” he said. “I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in them.”
But, it’s time for the Roughriders to bring in younger blood, Sheedy said. He would like to see a teacher at the school take over the program, someone in contact with the kids all year. And someone younger. He said he saw some coaches at the state track meet he had known for years who were reminding him of Tim Conway’s “little old man” character, and he said he didn’t want to end up like that.
Sheedy has built a strong program, especially the girls program at the moment. The Port Angeles girls, buoyed by a deep pool of distance runners led by seniors Gracie Long and Dougherty, dominated a number of meets this year. They also won the Olympic League 2A title, came in second at district as a team and finished ninth in the state. There were a number of meets this year in which Rider distance runners not only won every distance race, they grabbed up all the second- and third-place finishes, too.
Sheedy said this was his best girls team since the mid-1980, when the team was led by Sherry Felton, who was just inducted into the Port Angeles Hall of Fame.
“I know I’m leaving a lot of talent behind,” Sheedy said. “We were a force out there and they were proud of it.”
“We had a great team of girls. They got along so well, they had fun. They had too much fun,” he said.