Track Coach Crosses the Final Finish Line

After living a life of determination, coach Randell Eugene Sturgeon has finally crossed the finish line.

Sturgeon was a distance, high jump and, in the spring of 2014, sprints coach for the cross-country and track and field teams at Granite Bay High School (GBHS). Although his last years were spent coaching GBHS athletes, he also coached for El Camino, Del Campo and Cordova high schools in the past.

Sturgeon, 62, died Sept. 4 after battling the effects of throat and mouth cancer.

According to junior Maya Murphy-Cook, who first met Sturgeon four years ago as a runner, he pushed his runners “not just to their athletic limits but to their mental limits” as well.

Despite this motivation, it did not always seem as though he was having the runners work hard enough.

“They looked like they weren’t running,” said Nasca, who worked as a coach alongside Sturgeon. “ They were resting, and they ended up going to state.”

He kept the athletes going, but they were not alone in going far in competition. Murphy-Cook said Sturgeon often ran alongside the runners. During Saturday morning practices for track, the coach would come early in order to do his own training. If he missed that, he would run with the runners who came for practice. This dedication led him to running a marathon time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, far succeeding the time for the average American runner, which is around 4 hours .

“He’s been running his whole life,” Nasca said, “since high school and probably before.”

At Sturgeon’s first funeral service on Sept. 14, Clark Mullholland, who coached Sturgeon back when he was in high school, recalled the first time the two had met. After approaching Mullholland and telling him he was a distance runner, Mullholland asked Sturgeon, “How good are you?” to which Sturgeon replied, “Well, that depends on you.”

Even outside of coaching, Sturgeon did not venture far from running. He was the owner and publisher of the National Masters News publication, which focuses on long-distance, track and field, ultra-running and racewalking athletes.

“Everything he was about was about running,” Nasca said. “Anybody who wanted to run, he would take.”

Junior Tyler Short said Sturgeon was someone who didn’t care how well athletes performed in each race. As long as they put in the effort, he was proud of them.

“The running community was his family,” said Carla Kehoe, head coach of the GBHS cross-country team.

But to Sturgeon, the running community was much more than that. In one of the most recent track and field banquets, which are held at the end of each season, he referred to the runners as his “angels.”

His angels were the ones that got him through his earthly burdens. After being diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer, he remained hopeful that he would recover. He went through both radiation and chemotherapy before being informed that the cancer was still in him and he might not survive.

Although friends were discouraged by the news, Sturgeon himself accepted it bravely. According to an excerpt on the website masterstrack.com, in June of 2014 Sturgeon posted on his Facebook page: “I am okay and ready to go home anytime the Lord calls. I just want to finish with grace, dignity and at home with friends and family.”

Two years before his death, Sturgeon ran a mile in just over 6 minutes.

Even now, Sturgeon’s dedication to running continues in the form of scholarship money he left behind for the GBHS  track and cross-country teams. His gift will result in scholarships – to be called the Outrunning Cancer scholarships – for two students from track and two more from cross country.

Murphey-Cook said she especially remembers how Sturgeon wanted to run “Sturgeon Loop” for the last time, a route in the Granite Bay area that was named after him several years ago. During the run, Sturgeon fell down three times, but that did not stop him.

“He would run with us,” Murphey-Cook said, “for as long as he possibly could.”

Published in October 2014

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