Mike Callor: Stepping into enormous shoes

Mike and Sara Callor have recently added Nathan to their home. Contributed photo.

Tell us a little about your background in running--both high school and college.
 
I started running as an overweight Sophomore at Arapahoe High School, for the great Morris Vogel. I overheard some athletes talking about cross-country and how it was a co-ed sport and I thought, sure, I could try that. I ran/walked my first 5k (inter-squad scrimmage on the Arapahoe Invite course) in 29:15, finishing close to last on the entire team, but, something clicked. The effort required combined with team camaraderie dispelled the myth that cross-country was "just about running." It is and was so much more than that. I graduated with a PR's of 17:40, 5:06 and 11:01.
  
Never thinking I could possibly run in college, I joined the triathlon club my freshman year at CU-Boulder and got to be a part of the Club National Champion squad, which was so much fun. That summer I ran a 5 mile road race and outkicked a guy named Mark Stenbeck. We cooled down together and he mentioned that CCU was looking for guys and they might even have a bit of money for me. Run on an actual college team? Umm, okay! Transferred to CCU that fall and got to be a part of a squad that at its peak was regionally ranked, which is tough to do when competing with the likes of Adams and Western. Got better each season and earned a full athletic scholarship by my senior season.  
 
Was Dakota Ridge your first coaching job? And what circumstances led to your becoming coach at Dakota Ridge?
 
My first coaching job was actually at Conifer High School as an assistant under Tim Carlson and Jan Blumenstein, both tremendous motivators of young people.  I was 21 years old at the time, but, after the first week, wished that there was a way I could be a high school coach full time.  It was and still is what I have a great passion for.  I was also the distance coach in track.  Dakota Ridge became a possibility after talking with two good friends, William Wyckoff and Mark Shin about helping out there. Conifer was fantastic, but the drive up and down the hill became a little too much for me, so I became an assistant cross/distance coach at Dakota Ridge in 2003, and the head cross coach in 2004.  Also, eventually became the head track coach in 2006.   
 
I remember vividly your 2007 Dakota Ridge girls team. When did you realize you had something special on your hands with that group?
 
I was spoiled with some of the best internal team leadership I have ever had. When you have leaders on the team that not only believe in what they are doing and train at a high level, but have the ability to bring everyone around them up to that level with them, success is sure to follow.  Everyone on that team from top to bottom believed in each other and what we wanted to accomplish that season. It really started to hit home when we gained momentum and confidence, perfect scoring league and scoring 20 at regionals. That cold day at the state meet, Fort Collins was the favorite, but we knew what we were capable of. There were also few interruptions with injuries and illnesses. God willing, it was not the only near-perfect season I will see.      
 
You came oh-so-close to qualifying a team for NXN that year. Can you describe for us some of the struggle of the morning of that race?
 
Yes, it was quite the morning. It started before that, knowing that the Rogers sisters (Alexa and Natosha) both had sinus infections.  The morning of, found out that another one of our top 5 girls came down with something and was throwing up. Then, I took a short jog with Kaitie Vanatta to see how her lower legs were holding up (she was later diagnosed with compartment syndrome).  After a painful jog and tearful conversation, I decided against her racing. It simply wasn't worth her being in pain. So, I raced our alternate, Brooke Orcutt, who ended up making a huge jump to being our #5 that day. To finish third was actually exciting putting everything in perspective, but still believe we should have earned an at-large.  :-)
 
When you left Dakota Ridge, you were widely recognized as one of the most successful coaches in the state. How hard was it to leave, and what was it that tipped the scales for you to leave?
 
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The athletes that we were blessed enough to be able to hang out with over 9 years meant a lot to Sara (my very supportive wife and an awesome mom!) and I. There were many tears shed.  What tipped the scales leading to that decision was my desire to find a way to coach for a living. Coaching at the collegiate level just made sense.  I also knew that the team would be in very capable hands with one of my best friends, Mark Stenbeck. Of course, not knowing what it took to get a paid position, I submitted over 100 applications and had something like 5 interviews. I finally understood the reality of the phrase, "it's not what you know, it's who you know." Especially in collegiate coaching.   
 
And, how did you end up as an assistant at Fort Collins?
 
After accepting a position as a volunteer assistant with Bryan Berryhill at CSU and making the move to Fort Collins, I was informed that Bryan was taking a position at Wyoming. I was assured that the new coach would allow me to help, but found out that he preferred to bring in his own staff.  From there, I was in Fort Collins without a coaching job. Before I left, I had a conversation with Chris Suppes where he mentioned to me that if something didn't work out or fell through, I should let him know, so after helping at Mountain View for a season, I made the move to middle distance coach and varsity girls cross-country coach at Collins.     
 
Does being the successor to Chris Suppes keep you awake at night sometimes? Is it more excitement, more anxiety, or about equal parts both?
 
Actually, I would say neither.  It has mostly been a now 10-month-old son, Nathan, that keeps me awake sometimes! But really, the shoes of Chris Suppes cannot be filled.  The man is an absolute legend, one of the best to ever coach high school athletes. We are great friends and I would say that what we have learned from each other helped me be at ease with the transition. It is almost pure excitement, with a bit of anxiety come October.    
 
What's one thing you already know you'll have to do differently than Chris did?
 
Mostly style my hair differently.  I think I can pull off a few more hairstyles than he can.  :-)