When Garry Killgore was in eighth grade, he didn’t even know what cross country was. But he was approached by the South Albany High School coach, who was out scouting for talented kids, about joining the team the following year.
Killgore knew he was fast and liked running, so he said yes.
Today, Killgore is the head coach of Linfield’s cross country program. The desk in his office is covered with papers and books, files and folders, all full of training and recovery methods. But for all the clutter, it seems his passion for running trumps everything else, given his dedication to the sport and program.
Killgore said he sees himself as a mentor for his athletes, a guide in helping them help themselves, to discovering the keys for becoming better runners.
“My real role is to help people develop as people,” he said. “Athletics can provide many opportunities to grow as an individual, but also provide opportunities for someone to learn how to fit within the frameworks of everybody else.”
For 20 years, Killgore has found himself at the center of the program. He has guided runners to greatness, helped them overcome nagging injuries and taught them how to run at peak levels.
Junior cross country runner Frances Corcorran said Killgore’s longevity at Linfield has helped build a solid foundation. He gives new runners a stable atmosphere and a consistent message as they transition from high school to college. Because more than half of this year’s cross country runners are freshmen,
Killgore has certainly faced the test of solidifying and unifying the team in its training.
“It can be a challenge,” Killgore said. “I think a lot of times people come out of high school still holding on to some of those [negative]traits. The transition can be difficult.”
Alternative methods of training, such as deep-water jogging, have become a staple of Killgore’s program.
He has done extensive research in the field of biomechanics, focusing on preventing running-related injuries.
Corcorran, who suffered a season-ending hip socket injury her sophomore year, spent much of her time in the pool training and recovering.
After taking off the early part of this season to make sure she was fully recovered, Corcorran has been back to racing for several weeks, thanks in part to Killgore’s support and personalized approach.
“He knows so much about the body and running,” Corcorran said. “His understanding and ability to apply it to me has definitely helped me become a better runner.” Junior Chris McIssac
said Killgore’s love for running is evident in the attention he gives to his runners.
“It’s great because you can tell he’s really pumped when we succeed,” McIssac said. “He loves seeing people achieve great things. He’s excited to see when we’re excited.”
Killgore’s holistic approach to cross country, McIssac said, is proved positive time and time again by athletes who progress through their careers at Linfield and become great runners. He said if people fully buy into the program and push themselves, no end exists to what they can accomplish.
Past all the research, teaching and coaching, Killgore is just as much a runner-at-heart as any of his athletes. From his early days of high school when he discovered cross country to his Division I career at Oregon State University, Killgore said he has always maintained the spirit of running as one of feeling liberated.
“I still get so excited when I can drive down to the McKenzie River trail and run,” he said. “It’s like 20 or 30 years are melting away from me. Those years don’t exist during that time.”
Killgore’s philosophy of a body-mind-spirit approach to running, he said, is what he wants to instill in all his athletes. It’s the mindset that has kept him running for all these years.
“[As runners] we are very lucky; we are gifted in a different way,” he said. “It would be very sad to turn your back on a gift and not try to find out just how good you can be.”