WIRC born from coach's passion for running, teaching

Catie Rodeheffer likes to run.

And something she likes even more is sharing that passion with the youth of Whidbey Island.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Rodeheffer proposed to the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District that the organization sponsor a running club, and on that date the Whidbey Island Running Club was born.

The club started with 20 participants and has ballooned to over 70. It has also developed several elite performers as four club members have qualified for next week’s national Junior Olympic meet in Wichita.

Rodeheffer said her children, John and Laura, competed in some Junior Olympic cross country events prior to the formation of  the local club, but missed the enjoyment of being on a team. With that in mind, with encouragement from friend River Powers and with a familiarity of the NWPRD through helping with its swim team, Rodeheffer decided to approach the district about starting a running club.

As a youngster, Rodeheffer wanted to join a running club but didn’t have the opportunity. She said, “It was exciting to think of starting one for other kids to be a part of.”

Rodeheffer added, “Since I started coaching in 1985 and have pretty much coached some sport every year since then, I knew when looking for a job...I’d be much happier in a job involved with kids.”

Her goals for the club are to have success in all track disciplines, not just distance (three top-three finishes in nationals so far); to have athletes from other sports see the edge they can gain by training; and to make running available and enjoyable to all ability levels.

She said she would like the kids in the club to learn that hard work leads to success and the “goal outweighs the initial discomfort.” She noted that the hardest workers and not necessarily the most talented are usually the most successful.

In addition, Rodeheffer hopes the club helps the participants make new friends, learn how to have fun while working on fitness, learn life-long fitness methods and advance to high school running.

The club has become a melting pot for athletes from the community’s different schools, according to Rodeheffer.

She said, “It is kind of neat because we have kids from all the public schools and from Home Connections. It’s great the kids from all the different schools have a chance to become friends.”

The WIRC primarily follows the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic program, running in its cross country meets in the fall and track and field events in the spring and summer. Throughout the year, particularly in the winter, the club also competes in local road races.

Recently the club has been able to divide into two groups, sprints and distances. In the past, the club focused on distance running. With the inclusion of sprints, Rodeheffer said the club has attracted more participants. She noted that sprints are less intimidating than distance events and allow newcomers to compete without being in top physical condition.

Rodeheffer is assisted by her husband Bill, and this summer son John and Theresa Chelberg have helped with the beginners.

Rodeheffer “has always been a runner.” She qualified for the state meet for Mercer Island High School and competed for Club Northwest while in college because her small Christian school (Northwest College in Kirkland) did not have a track team at the time.

Her husband was “Mr. Big Time distance runner in high school in Ohio,” she said, and then went on to run for Oregon State University.

Bill Rodeheffer was a head high school track coach for about 10 years, including a stop in Mercer Island where the couple met. They also coached in Taiwan and South Dakota.

They settled in Oak Harbor because they were attracted to its beauty and heard from friends it was a “great place to raise a family.”

Rodeheffer said, “We really are grateful for (the park district’s) support because what has been accomplished already in these few years in the lives of the kids is really amazing and extremely rewarding to be a part of.”

The club is always welcoming new members, Rodeheffer said. She can be reached at 360-279-2196 or

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