Ivan Huff continues to push his athletes to success for over thirty years of coaching distance running.
PRHS’ Cross Country and Distance Track coach Ivan Huff has led quite a life. Coming from a successful career in running by qualifying for the Olympic Trials in 1984,1988, and 1992 for the 3,000 meter steeplechase and the marathon to coaching Bearcat athletes since 1986. Huff has inspired his athletes, leading many of his runners to continue to have success through their college careers.
Huff’s legendary life has included multiple qualifications to the Olympic Trials, influential coaching to some of Paso’s best runners and changing the way distance running is perceived at PRHS forever.
Born on July 31,1959 in Colorado, Huff moved to Paso Robles shortly after in 1963. Being the youngest of six children, Huff was inspired to become a runner by his three brothers, who were stellar runners during their high school and college careers.
“I always had a lot of endurance in the elementary and junior high fitness tests. I was 4’10” and 86 pounds my freshman year, so I was not going to be a factor on the football field,” said Huff, who attended PRHS from the fall of 1973 to spring of 1977.
Both of his children, Hannah Huff and Ian Huff ran high school Cross Country and Track following in their father’s footsteps. Hannah Huff held the women’s 3200 Meter record of 10:57:38 in 2007, which was broken ten years later by alumna Annie Meeder in 2017.
“He’s loyal. Even if I wasn’t running, I was still, and always will be his athlete. Coach Huff has a true passion for distance running and that carries over to his athletes,” said Meeder.
Member of the Bearcat Hall of Fame Ivan Huff did not stop after college with his running career. Starting in 1984, at the age of 25, Huff qualified for the Olympic Trials for the first time for the 3000 Meter steeplechase and ended up getting fifth place just barely not making it to the Olympics. Then, in 1988 he returned to the trials, but placed sixth with a time of 8:26.15. For the last time he returned in 1992 coming in 10th with a time of 8:40.27 for the steeplechase, but this year he also focused on the marathon for this competition.
During this time that he was competing all over the world Huff was ranked 10th overall in the world and being ranked 2nd overall in the United States for his performance for the 3,000 meter steeplechase in Brussels, Belgium in the year 1986.
“I think I would have become a coach”, said Huff, when asked if he would have made it to the Olympics.
He coached the high school cross country and track team while he was still competing in the Olympic Trials in 1988 and 1992.
In 1985 and ’86 Huff competed in the USA vs England dual meets. He was able to travel around Europe in the summers, 1985 thru 1990 competing in invitational track meets. Huff got to compete in former Olympic stadiums like Stockholm, Helsinki, Rome and Berlin.
Since 1986, Huff has dedicated his time to coaching at Paso. For over thirty years, he has coached athletes to become successful and many continue to run even in college. Some of these include athletes such as Annie Meeder, current PRHS record holder in the mile and 3200 meter, Luis Armendariz, and Ashley Davis, former mile record holder, all of whom are running for Cal Poly, and other athletes including Trad Berti, current 3200 meter school record holder, and Zachary Chamberlain who are attending Chico State all running Cross Country for their schools. No other coach at PRHS has the accumulation of athletes able to compete and succeed on the college level as Huff.
Meeder beamed about his influence and impact.
“Respectful. I really think we grew together, I as a runner, and he as a coach. He was the first coach to really show me what it was like to be a college athlete and I see his training and coaching carrying over at Cal Poly,” said Meeder.
The PRHS Cross Country and Track programs have flourished while Huff has been the head coach.
“ No state titles, but we had our best year when the boys placed third in the state meet and second in the southern section. Through the years the boys have had more success, they have been to CIF and placed well at league almost every year during my thirty years,” Huff said.
Current athletes such as freshman varsity runner Grace Chamberlain and third year varsity runner junior Pablo Cortes had many words to say about their coach.
“I have known Huff for six years. He is very determined, caring, and always puts his athletes first in everything! I would say that I couldn’t ask for a better coach because he is so committed and prepares us well for races,” Chamberlain said.
“Huff is a really caring and responsible coach. I like how he makes us run in our trainers for our races except in CIF. I feel like I’m ten times faster without them once the tougher races start to roll in. I trust his coaching experience because he’s made me into a really good runner even though I’ve never had any running experience before,” Cortes said.
After exactly thirty one years of coaching at PRHS, rumors of Huff retiring have been floating around campus.
“There have been some really good years and others that are really frustrating but overall, there hasn’t been a favorite year, there is usually a group or somebody that makes it enjoyable and that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back, even when it is a frustrating year or we do not have a lot of success there are usually athletes that come back that I want to work with” Huff said.
From being a national athlete who traveled all over the world to run to competing in the Olympic trials, this Bearcat Alumni was inducted into the Bearcat Hall of Fame in September of 1996 recognizing his amazing accomplishments throughout the years.
Even with Huff’s tough coaching mentality, many of his athletes appreciate his hard work that drives them to success.
“His workouts always pay off because during races we are even stronger than most of our opponents based off of the workout treatments we are given. I feel like it’s pretty evident compared to other schools that are ranked higher than us and we end up beating them” Cortes said.
No need to look further than the very town of Paso Robles to find a determined and driven man like Coach Huff. Here, you can see athletes run for miles a day, all lead by Huff, who doesn’t believe in cancelling practice, unless he sees there is lighting in the sky.
Hard work and dedication are something that are evident in this bearcat alumni. With all of the success that he has had over the years, it seems like PRHS has benefited from having a man like Ivan Huff to work with their athletes for more than thirty years. Like Huff always says, “you can make excuses or you can make it happen.”