EDITORS NOTE: Bob King is one of ten 2013 U.P. Sports Hall of Fame inductees. This is the conclusion of a four-part series detailing the four local inductees.
ESCANABA - He has been called the King of track and field in California, where Bob King, a Manistique native, has made quite a name for himself.
Compiling possibly the best track and field and cross country record in California state history has earned King, already a member of two California Hall's of Fame, a 2013 induction into the Upper Peninusla Sports Hall of Fame.
King has put in 45 years into coaching the sport he grew up loving. At Mira Loma High School from 1967-82 and Fair Oaks Del Campo from 1982-present, King's track and field teams have gone 271-42-4 in dual meets. His cross country teams have gone an astounding 591-52 in dual meets.
"I've enjoyed every bit of this," King said wednesday during a break in coaching his cross country team. "That's why I'm still coaching. This is my 46th season of cross country I'm going into right now and I'm still having fun, and the program I'm running has been pretty successful. That's why it's fun. Losing is not fun.
King has always been involved with athletics from a young age. A self described "middle of the road athlete" at Manistique, King played baseball, basketball, football and ran track.
"I was a good baseball player. We only had it one year at Manistique, when I was a senior. I pitched one half of a no-hitter our first game we had that spring," King said.
"That same year I was a U.P. Class B champ in running the 880 (half-mile)."
King said he had never ran the half mile until his senior year, thanks to a reccomondation from the Emeralds' football coach.
"I used to run the 100 or 200 and never scored a point," said King. "The football coach (Richard Bonifas) told me I should try the half-mile because I ran long laps in football. I tried it and it worked, I had found my event. I just wasn't fast enough to be a sprinter.
"I enjoyed my prep career at Manistique and never felt bad about being from there. It's a great place to be from."
King never lost a meet running the half-mile and earned a track scholarship to Northern Michigan University.
However, King soon became a Wildcat of a different color, as an injury caused him to lose half of his scholarship at NMU. He transferred to California State University-Chico, also called the Wildcats, because his grandparents lived in the area.
There, he met his main coaching influence.
"I had a college mentor and coach named Willie Simmons. He was an inspiration to everyone that was an athlete at Chico. He certainly inspired us," said King. "He inspired hundreds of athletes to spread out and coach. He gave advice on what was important to teach athletes - to not just be athletes, but be better citizens and productive members of society. A lot of us went out and accomplished some of those things."
King's trick of the trade to a wildly successful coaching career seems simple on the surface, yet there are very few coaches willing to put in the work to emulate it.
"I try to get the kids to run twice a day," King said. "All the great distance runners in the world run twice a day, and it works. It's made a big differnce in my coaching career. It's about endurance. If ou run more miles, you'll have more endurance, you'll be stronger and you'll have the ability to beat more people.
"Almost no coaches do it, to this day. It's a leg up that we have. There's a lot of hours and a lot of work that goes along with it. Coaches don't want to be at the gym at 6 a.m. and work until 6 at night and I understand that. But on the other hand, the fact that we do that? It makes a difference."
The results of King's methods are clear.
"Believe it or not, in the 45 years I've coached, I've had 41 boys that ran 4:28 or faster in the mile and 31 who have ran 9:38 or faster in the two-mile," King said. "Two workouts a day has promoted excellence at the top level."
King is also more than aware of the most essential part of distance running.
"The most important thing you teach in distance running is pace," said King. "You can't leave the line as fast as you can run. You have to leave at the pace you're going to run the event at."
In King's long tenure that continues to this day, he has won his section 18 times and only missed qualifying for states three times.
"That might be the best record in California according to some of my coaching cohorts," said King.
A host of great athletes have and come and gone over the last 45 years but King didn't hesitate when asked to recall his most successful runner.
"I have a lot of former athletes that come back sometimes to help. One is currently a scholarship athlete at Brigham Young University," said King. "Last fall, he was the fourth best in the nation. he could run the two-mile in nine minutes flat. His name is James Tracy and he was the only one I had that was an individual and team state champion. He was the whole package - ability, smarts, great leadership and great work ethic.
"I did have a kid that made the Olympic trials in the marathon in 2008. He was the fifth American across the line in the Boston Marathon that year and qualified for the trials, but not the Olympics."
King has had nothing but success since coming to California, being inducted in the California Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Sac Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2011, but he said he will assuredly be back in Delta County for the induction ceremony.
"I will definitely come back to be inducted in April," he said. "I do come back from time to time, but not for several years. I once played on a softball team here that had three people from the U.P. on it. There is an exclusive club feeling about being from there."