Seeing a Dream

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By Patric Hedlund

“Falcon Pride” is the logo on Nathan Kliegl’s running uniform, designed by his coach… who is also his dad. The words are not an abstract concept to Frazier Mountain High School’s one-man cross-country team.

This week, when all three FMHS fall sports were invited to CIF play-offs, perhaps it is Nathan’s story that most starkly illustrates the drive to excel despite obstacles. That is a defining quality in so many youths raised in these mountains. The meaning of sports in their lives, and that of their families, is part of their spirit, a gift of the place they were raised.

“Loneliness won’t stop me,” Nathan says. In fact, there is a frank passion in the words of this straight-A student when he talks about the beauty of running cross country at 6,000 feet in the hills he has lived in since he was 7 years old.

He began running competitively in 5th grade. He runs up to Mount Able at 8,000 feet, and knows the training and stamina that he is building into himself here has increased his competitiveness dramaticaly.

In 2010 when the new superintendent Katherine “Katie” Kleier said declining school budgets would make it necessary to remove intermural sports from the FMHS program, there was a near insurrection among parents and students in the El Tejon Unified School District. Shortly after that, some of the most motivated students began leaving to enroll elsewhere.

Nathan was one of those. He enrolled in Bret Harte Union High School in Santa Clarita as a junior and went to the state championships last year with Harte High School’s cross country team. He credits the coaching he received there, with summer training camps at U.C. Santa Barbara plus coaching from his dad with the increase in speed that is now bringing him into a new rung of competition in his sport. Nathan said he also appreciated a sense of seriousness about academics on the Harte campus that he’d like to feel more frequently here. He appreciated students’ interest in “acing their tests.”

This year, as a senior, the family returned to FMHS after being told they could pursue their hope to run cross country. Nathan said he would like to have access to more AP classes in History and English. “I’d like to see us adopt some of that attitude that academics really matters for future success.” He says it is hard when there are 43 students in a class for a teacher to do a lot of teaching.

But “excellence brings out excellence,” his dad Robert says, and this Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputy has visions of being able to help create a stellar track program here.

“I see a dream for this area. It could be dynamic. People want to be here. If we just started doing it a little bit differently…. Success breeds success,” he says, looking up into the fall colors painting the mountains.

“When it comes to running, this place could be really good… famous…a place where people would really want to come to train. People want to come here to raise their kids.”

The Kliegl family’s next goal is to get a track and field program going this year. They hope there may be others in the community who would like to see this happen.

This is part of the November 09, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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