Argonaut cross country

Members of the Argonaut cross country team on a recent foggy morning training run.

Cameron Duggan is in his ninth year as the head cross country coach at Argonaut High School. During that time, the Argonaut cross country program has been on a steady rise with positive participation and results that include state meet qualifiers in multiple years and a breakthrough Mother Lode League team championship – the program’s first – won by the Mustangs’ frosh/soph girls in the fall of 2019.

For Duggan, a 37-year-old single father of three children from Pioneer, the typical 3-mile high school cross country run is a walk in the park. A multi-sport athlete in high school, he competed in football, wrestling and track and field at Amador High, but nowadays, he is an ultramarathoner. He’s run numerous marathons and has recently completed three ultramarathons with his longest endeavor spanning 43 miles.

After graduating from Amador High School, Duggan attended college at University of California, Santa Barbara; Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose; and Sacramento State University.

In addition to coaching cross country, he teaches English at Argonaut High School and also coached wrestling from 2010 to 2016.

This school year, Duggan, like the many other high school sports coaches throughout the state, has been tasked with trying to prepare for a season that may never happen. Practice for the high school cross country season has officially started and competitions were scheduled to begin as early as next week – and are allowable for cross country with Amador County in the purple tier and not currently under a regional stay-at-home order – but have been put on hold until at least February 1 by MLL officials, who are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, January 27 to try and formulate a plan for competition that adheres to health guidelines at the local and state levels.

“CIF rules say you can only compete with neighboring counties whose health officers approve,” Duggan said. “But our league spans three counties, so they have to work that out. We have a schedule, but it’s still on hold … very frustrating. But, at least we have a chance of having competitions this season. Our practices continue as normal. We distance, mask and sanitize. Running is easy to practice without risking infection.”

In the second installment of this Ledger Dispatch Q & A series with local high school coaches, Cameron Duggan shares his thoughts on coaching during the pandemic.

Ledger Dispatch question: What are some of the unique challenges the pandemic has presented to you and your program as a coach?

Coach Duggan answer: Cross country can operate almost normally, since we have very little physical contact, but the isolation has brought on a lot of frustration and depression in athletes. It has made recruiting difficult and the constant changes and unknowns for the season schedule are disheartening and frustrating for coaches and athletes.

Q: What are some things you have done to keep your team active and/or connected during this pandemic?

A: We ran all summer and have been practicing for months. We recently ran a half-marathon – 13.1 miles – and the entire team finished, which was a huge accomplishment for many of them.

Q: What are some things you have done personally during the pandemic with the “extra” time that has come from not having a typical season?

A: Ran ultramarathons. Read books. Furthered my career.

Q: In what ways, if any, do you feel the pandemic might change high school sports for the better?

A: It will build resilience and a sense of appreciation regarding how fortunate the kids are to have sports.

Q: In what ways, if any, do you feel the pandemic might change high school sports for the worse?

A: It will set a precedent that may not be founded in reality or good science that is fear-based, which takes away more health than it protects.

Q: What’s your message to student-athletes in this time?

A: No one is stopping you from becoming a better athlete. Just because the lights are off and the gym is closed and you don’t have a fancy uniform doesn’t mean you can’t improve to get stronger, faster and more fit. Run up and down the street. Do a bodyweight circuit. Climb a tree. Swim in the lake. Lift some rocks. Winners find a way! This is a test of your personal willingness and grit. What will you do to better yourself when no one is looking and the only reward is your knowledge of your own growth and the peace in your soul?