If You Go
What: Boulder Sports Hall of Fame
When: Saturday at 5 p.m.
Where: Avalon Ballroom, 6193 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Five athletes will be inducted into the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday for their athletic performance in triathlon, cycling, running, climbing and their contribution to the Boulder community.
Dale Stetina, a former Olympic cyclist who was injured earlier this summer while riding in Lefthand Canyon, will not attend due to injuries but will be recognized for his achievements in cycling. Other athletes who will be inducted include Gary Lacy, community service; Steve Jones, running; Pat Ament, climbing; and Joanne Ernst, triathlon.
We caught up with Ernst, 54, who won the 1985 Ironman World Championships and coached the boys and girls Fairview High cross country teams to four state team championships.
There wasn't a women's cross country team at Fairview when you were in high school, so you ran with the boys. What was that like?
My senior year at Fairview I ran on the boys cross country team under Roger Briggs, my physics teacher and coach. As I recalled, I had to get special permission to be on the boys team because there was no girls team. Title IX passed in 1972, but it didn't really start being implemented until 1975 or so. It was still a really unusual thing for girls to have the opportunity to run cross country in high school.
Also my senior year, my recollection is it was against the rules to run in the mile and the half mile in the same track meet because girls weren't believed to be able to do that. Getting this award has caused me to think back about just how different the world was then. I lived it and I forgot.
Briggs will introduce you at the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame. What impact did he have in your life?
I couldn't emphasize enough how much of a role he played in my life. Some of them have to do with sports, and one, he treated me like any other team member on the cross country team. I was accepted and encouraged and he introduced us to trail running. That's where I first fell in love with running on trails for long distances. Roger introduced me to running on trails, he also introduced me to my husband. He's played a really critical role in my life. He prevailed upon me to become the Fairview cross country coach when I moved back here from California.
Rumor has it one of your first dates with your husband Jim Collins was a long-distance run. How did you two meet?
I first met Jim at a Christmas party as a senior in high school and Jim was a freshman at Stanford. Roger knew I wanted to go to Stanford because I asked him to write a letter of recommendation. He was a rock climbing partner of Jim's.
I did know him during my first several years at Stanford — I bought vitamins and protein powder from him (laughing). We didn't start dating until his senior year at Stanford, my junior year.
Our first date was a run. I took him out for 8 miles because he told me he was upping his mileage. He always jokes and says 'Yeah anything over zero is upping my milage.' I had a different idea of what that meant. We ended up walking 5 miles. He was having troubles on the hills. That was in May, we got married in December.
One day over breakfast you told Jim, out of the blue, that you thought you could win the Ironman World Championship — and then you did. What made you say that?
I don't know exactly what prompted me to say that but I do know that I did believe that I could win it. It might've been something that was just fortuitous or lucky. My first triathlon that I finished 10th in, the Bonnie Bell Women's Triathlon in May of 1983, most of the top women in the sport at the time were there. And I thought, "Wow, that's really interesting. Maybe I could be pretty good at this if I tried."
I don't know why, I just believed that I could do it and then I did do it.
What was your training regimen like back in the 1980s?
It's a lot more scientific now than it was then. Most of us were self-coached. I feel like I was making it up as I went along, for sure. I was always a moderate milage, high-intensity trainer. The year that I won in 1985, I averaged 16 miles a week of running because I had a chronic hamstring problem. We couldn't fix it and I really wanted to win the Ironman. I wasn't waiting around. I felt, at that time, I just needed to keep pushing through. When I think of it now, I really suffered (at the 1985 Ironman). My quads were cramping and my toes were curling under. I was in excruciating pain.
Did you find more satisfaction in your personal athletic success or in coaching Fairview High runners to several state titles?
(Coaching) was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was a lesson — you can't anticipate how meaningful something will be before you do it. I coached for eight years and we wont four team titles. The girls won state in 1999 and 2001 and the boys won in 2000 and 2001.
It's not even close for me. The coaching the athletes, helping them achieve their potential and to achieve their goals hands-down demolish any joy I actually had from my own professional career. Maybe I'm a real outlier,but in my own professional career, I was very rarely joyful or happy or satisfied with any of my own accomplishments. For some reason it's easier for me to be happier for other people and their accomplishments. I don't know why, it just works that way for me.
Contact Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org