Great article in the IJ Sports about Kreig Vezie, a former MCAL coach who passed away on Sunday. Coach Vezie was a big proponent for equal opportunities for female runners in Marin. He also started the Stinson Beach Relays which will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sept. 11.
By Tim Menicutch IJ correspondent (photo from 1963 Tam yearbook)
Krieg Stanton Vezie, a math teacher and a pioneering cross country and track and field coach for 26 years at Tam High, died Sunday after a lengthy illness at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., not far from his Oregon home just outside Redmond. He was 81.
Vezie is credited for establishing cross country as an MCAL recognized sport in 1964, just three years after being hired as a special education teacher at Tam.
A native of Los Angeles, Vezie graduated from Pomona College, and soon after accepting the teaching position at Tam, he was named the cross country coach when Glidden Benefield retired.
Vezie’s boys cross country teams were undefeated and won the MCAL title four consecutive years in the mid 1960s. Vezie also started the annual season kickoff meet for MCAL cross country, the Stinson Beach Relays — a two-mile run on the sand — which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sept. 11 and will be run this year in his honor.
Vezie’s most notable achievement during his coaching tenure, however, was gaining equal rights for girls in both cross country and track and field. When he started coaching cross country at Tam, there were no girls teams in Marin County, yet he encouraged girls to practice and run with the boys.
In 1967, after plenty of lobbying by Vezie, girls cross country was started in the MCAL. By the fall of 1972 the North Coast Section had a girls meet. Tam ran away with the inaugural NCS championship, placing five girls in the top 10.
“Krieg was highly dedicated and very innovative as a coach,” said former colleague Bruce Grant, 84, who was the boys track and field coach at Tam for many years and still serves as an assistant track and field coach at Terra Linda High. “He poured his heart and soul into his coaching.”
Vezie campaigned for girls cross country and track teams to be incorporated into the boys meets. Vezie took over as girls track and field coach in 1972 after the team had been started in 1967. But, at the time, the boys and girls meets were run separately. In 1974 the two groups finally had their meets together. The Tam girls racked up six undefeated seasons under Vezie’s guidance.
Although he was never a runner himself — a childhood bout with polio left one of his diaphragms paralyzed — Vezie led the Tam girls track and field team to the first girls NCS title in 1975.
“He was always a patient coach,” said the eldest of his three sons, Eric Vezie, 54, who ran cross country on his dad’s teams in 1972-73. “His coaching philosophy was to give the kids the responsibility. He always told us, if you don’t run and you don’t train, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s up to you. We learned to take the initiative.”
Tam graduate Linda Broderick-Gill, the last Marin County athlete to win a state track and field title when she captured the mile in 1976, wrote a note to Eric after learning of his father’s death and fondly recalled her former coach.
“He was a great coach/mentor for all of us and he taught us to love running and to be great competitors,” Broderick-Gill wrote. “Your dad touched a lot of people and I know I am grateful to have had him as a coach.”
Krieg’s father, Manny Vezie, played end for the Notre Dame football team in the late 1920s and early 1930s under coach Knute Rockne, and was a starter in the legendary “Win one for the Gipper” game.