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STEVE FLORES: Running story is really a family story

BY STEVE FLORES For The Californian
Sunday, Mar 01 2015 03:00 PM

It was 1997 and our Kern County job training agency had a new director, John Mollison, to whom I reported. He came to our community fresh from a 28 ½ year U.S. Air Force career and retired at the rank of colonel.

He definitely had a military persona, leadership and communication style. I was initially concerned that his approach to the "helping people" mission of our agency would be too jaded by the strict discipline and sometimes disconnect of compassion necessary to exist and succeed in the long and successful military career he had attained.

A clue to how wrong I was came early one morning at work. I walked into his office as I normally did for a quick meeting to help plan the day and gauge his approach to the multimillion dollar job training agency he now oversaw. Although his back was turned to me, I could see he held a copy of the Los Angeles Times Sports section in his hands. I had not known John for very long, but when he turned to greet me, it was obvious he had been crying or was very upset.

He gathered himself and handed me The Times and said, "Read this" and pointed to a column written by Marx Arax titled, "Grueling Season: McFarland cross-country team toils for 6th straight title." I walked back to my office a little bewildered but anxious to see what had made the new boss so emotional.

That morning, as I read the column and because of the fabulous writing of Mr. Arax, I was introduced to the enduring legacy of Jim White, or as he was known on school campus, Coach "Blanco." Equally important, I was drawn into the familiar lifestyle of money poor but family rich farmworker students of McFarland High School's Cougar cross country team.

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