Brian Rhea spent four years at the start of the 1990s running cross-country for Bill Miles at Wayzata High School. He was not able to break into the top seven for Wayzata in a sectional or a state meet.
What Rhea recalls vividly is running the roads near the former high school (now Central Middle School). The Wayzata boys would be stretched out along those roads and a couple of them might have been gassed, having slowed to a walk.
Miles would be out in his blue Astro van, monitoring those runs and carrying water for his athletes.
"Bill didn't approve of walking," Rhea said. "When someone saw the van coming, if they were walking, they would start the Survival Shuffle. I always liked watching as Bill would pull up slow from behind and shout, 'Survival Shuffle!'
"Every time guys would jump and start jogging. It was like watching someone crank up a jack-in-the-box."
What is the Survival Shuffle?
"It's a very slow jog, one foot in front of the other," Miles said. "We are runners, so we are not going to walk. If you have gone out too fast on a long run and you need to finish the run, you go into survival mode … the shuffle."
Saturday, Wayzata's annual alumni meet will be held at 10 a.m. as the kickoff to another cross-country season. For the first time in 39 years, Miles will not be the head coach for the new collection of Trojans. He retired in December, and in January was named the national coach of the year for boys' cross-country.
A celebration to honor Miles will be at the high school after the race. There will be hundreds of runners in attendance, from state champions to Survival Shufflers, and when Miles is asked to address his former athletes, he's going to cry.
"I'm an emotional guy," Miles said. "I cry when I wake up in the morning, thinking about the good things I have in my life."
Wayzata won its second consecutive state title in November and the ninth in Miles' time as cross-country coach. Connor Olson became his fourth individual state champion, joining Kurt Runzheimer in 1989, Adam Stuhlfurt in 1993 and Josh Thorson in 2011.
"I say that I've had the honor to coach 4½ individual champions," Miles said. "I coached the great Don Hurley at Cretin. I moved to Wayzata before Don's senior year, and then he was the individual state champion. I claim Don as a half."
That's not an ego thing for Miles. He doesn't display much of that. It's more to keep those first six years at Cretin as part of his coaching history.
Miles was a 19-year-old at the University of Minnesota, trailing the wake of all-time Gophers greats Garry Bjorklund and Don Timm, when Cretin needed a coach to keep its cross-country team going.
His brother Tim was a Cretin runner and volunteered Bill for the task. That was the start; last November's state title was the finish. He was a very interested spectator a month later as the Trojans finished second in the national high school cross-country meet in Portland, Ore.
"The state high school league rules are that we're done as a coaching staff the moment the state meet finishes," Miles said. "Fortunately, we've had Kraig Lungstrom to take over for the regional and national meets, when we have the chance to participate. Kraig is outstanding.
"We saw these kids coming as seventh- and eighth-graders and knew they could do something special. Two straight state titles and second in the nation … that's pretty impressive."
Miles didn't cry when he said that. He did get a little choked up talking about his daughter, Elizabeth Hansen, the girls' swimming coach at Wayzata. In the past two Novembers, Elizabeth's girls have won the state swimming title a couple of weeks after her father's boys won the cross-country title.
Bill is a spectator for both cross-country and swimming now, helping his wife, Sally, with grandparenting duties, and getting ready to greet state champs and shufflers alike on Saturday.
One person who would have been there to salute Bill — Roy Griak — will be missing. Griak was the coach when Bill arrived at Minnesota and his inspiration for coaching distance runners and dealing with people.
Griak died in July at age 91. Bill started talking about a post he saw on a website from Ken Popejoy, a great Michigan State runner, and a kindness extended by Griak early in Popejoy's career with the Spartans.
"I'm going to cry if I repeat this," and then Miles retold the story Griak's long-ago kindness to a rival, and the tears came. Many more are anticipated for Saturday as generations of Wayzata runners honor their coach.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org