James content nearly one year removed from his retirement


Brady Johnson, Sports Editor

Because he’s such a humble and gracious guy, many people were never made aware of cross country and girls track head coach Ken James’s resignation, announced at a meeting with the cross country team at the beginning of last June.

It was a day filled with raw emotion and heavy surprise for all those in attendance who were expecting to be given the usual plan for summer training.

Outside of his immediate family, AD Ian Lamont and the assistant coaches, his athletes were the first people to know of his resignation.

“It was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said James, who has been a head coach at LHS for 16 years and an assistant for another seven in a couple different stints. “It’s tough when you’ve spent so much time with the people that you have a common passion with.”

Running has been a part of his life ever since he was 10 years old, having competed in high school at LHS to winning coach of the year awards and a state championship at the helm.

“He’s the definition of a Pacer,” said his wife and PE teacher Tammy James. “That’s why it was so hard for him to walk away and would be even tougher to maybe come back and coach but at another school.”

His retirement was one of the most selfless and family-oriented acts a coach can take.

James has two sons in college: Jalen, who attends the University of Utah and Ty, a sophomore at Idaho State University and member of the school’s cross country and track teams.

“I can tell you for a fact that the number one reason that he retired was so that he could go and watch Ty run in college,” said Tammy James.

Added Ken: “It’s been nice to be able to coach Ty and spend more time with Tammy and travel.”

As we caught up and reminisced about our own athlete-coach experiences, I was harkened back to that scorching June day when he could barely get through telling the team why he was retiring.

“I know it was hard for guys like you entering your senior season,” said James.

But everyone involved with the program understands it was a heart-wrenching decision for him.

“To do a good job coaching, you have to spend a lot of time doing it. There were a lot of nights I’d continuously be leaving school at 8:30 and my truck would be the only car in the parking lot,” said James.

Having the privilege to teach and coach in the same building is really rewarding, as James affirmed, but being a math teacher as well as a coach and balancing his two jobs left him without much time for his family.

In talking with him and his wife, we all were in agreement that parenting always has to take precedent over an extracurricular such as coaching.

“At some point I may decide to come back to coaching, but coaching will always be here. The time to watch Ty won’t always be there. I’ve basically got a three year window and I don’t want to look back with regret,” said James.

Much to the James’s humor, two OSAA track programs have already reached out to Ken about a potential return.

James, who coached at Willamette University for seven years prior to taking over the head coaching jobs at LHS, talked about how 2-4 hours of his time every day was spent away from Jalen and Ty as they grew up and had their own high school running experiences.

By coaching his own teams at the same time his sons were competing, he missed key moments in their running careers, like Jalen winning districts for track in the 800m in 1:57 or Ty being the district champion in the 5000m [cross country], 3000m and 1500m his senior year

Though he’ll still occasionally come to meets to watch, it’s been difficult to stay out of the sport.

Yet he has to in order to allow new head coach Scott Spear to make his mark on the program.

The culture, however, is already instilled.

“My goal has always been to leave a program in a better place than it was when I first got there,” said James. “Spending time with kids outside of the classroom, and those connections you build, and seeing them develop from their freshmen to senior year, that’s the most rewarding part of coaching. That’s what I miss the most.”

“League titles and state championships come second to that.”

Much like his decision to retire, James always had the greater outlook on life in coaching.

“I always wanted my athletes to take fitness and make it a part of their life for the rest of their life.”00003490851832