By Zach Cavanagh
Photo Credit: Jeff Gritchen
The history of the Servite boys track and field team at the CIF-SS Finals was filled with near-misses and heartbreak.
"There were always just things," Servite coach Richard Gibbs said. "We've been in the top six 12 out of the last 16 years. We've been second twice, third three times, fourth four times. It's always been just something."
One year a pulled hamstring three days before the finals resulted in a third-place team finish – just seven points away from winning. Another time, a relay baton was sent flying by an inadvertent bump by an opponent, and that led to another third-place finish.
Servite lived in a Groundhog's Day of Murphy's Law.
Then it finally came together.
For guiding the Friars to a Trinity League title and their first CIF-SS Division 3 team title, Gibbs has been selected as the Register's boys track and field coach of the year.
"This year, even if something went wrong, it turned out OK," Gibbs said. "It was just, as far as we could tell, meant to be finally. Everybody came through."
Gibbs finished his 30th season coaching track and his 23rd as the head coach at Servite. He joined the Friars in 1974 for a seven-year stint, and 2017 was his 16th season in his second run that began in 2002.
It has been talked about that next season could be his last, but Gibbs isn't entirely sure he won't be enticed by his love of the sport to stick around.
"It's not a guarantee," Gibbs said with a smile. "My wife is definitely retiring next year. We'll have to see."
Coming into the season, Gibbs felt positive of this group's chances to finally get over the hump.
"You look back at the results of who's coming back for everybody," Gibbs said. "You take a look at your team and think you've got a lot of the pieces. I never tell them something I don't really believe. I told them that they had a real shot."
With an experienced coaching staff, strength in sprints, hurdles and relays and an infusion of committed football talent, things finally broke right for the Friars, who took the CIF-SS title with 60 points.
The trophy now sits in a case at the school, a reward for Gibbs' perseverance as well as the passion he still has for the sport.
"Those races are fun to watch," Gibbs said. "They're really exciting. I still get excited every time they step on the track."