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Coach rides Crimson Tide to new horizons

Craig Ruecker isn't calling it quits.

The accomplished high school football coach, who quit last month after 22 years at Glencoe, will resurface soon, perhaps at one of the jobs currently open around the state: Gresham, Redmond, Grants Pass or even the place he started and spent 11 years, Reynolds.

'My wife (Beverly) teased me and asked if we would be spending 33 years in the next place, or are we doubling it to make it 44,' says Ruecker, 54, who coached Glencoe to state titles in 1986 and '94.

It will be neither. But Ruecker, who guided the Crimson Tide to 17 playoff berths, has another decade of coaching in him. The Hillsboro School District's unsettled budget situation wasn't the reason he left as much as 1) split community support, with four high schools now in Hillsboro, and 2) increased expectations.

'It's like, 'Ho-hum, Glencoe's in the playoffs again,' ' he says. 'But you know, I had the greatest 22 years at Glencoe a person can ask for. It is a very good place to coach, and I am thankful for my time there.

'My wife and I are looking for a new adventure. We would like to stay in Oregon. We wouldn't mind going to a place with more community identity with regard to the school. I knew it was time to be done at Glencoe, and now it is time to live in a different part of the metro area, or in central Oregon, or someplace else.'

nThe Oregon Ducks have plucked the state of Washington's top offensive lineman. Aaron Klovas, a 6-6, 305-pound All-American from Bethel High in Spanaway, Wash., has verbally committed to Oregon over Washington State, Washington, Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona State, Michigan State and others.

• Something has to be done about Jim Walden, the ex-coach who serves as radio analyst for Washington State broadcasts. Walden is a nice guy, but he is unprofessional Ñ an embarrassing cheerleader who makes you appreciate the comparative impartiality of Bobby Grim (OSU football, radio), Mike Jorgensen (Oregon football, radio) and Rob Closs (Oregon basketball, TV).

Plus, Walden talks over play-by-play voice Bob Robertson constantly and speaks with an Okie twang that makes Jerry Pettibone and Jerry Green sound as if they are speaking the king's English. Cougar supporters deserve better.

• Friends of Taylor Barton are raising funds to help with medical bills of the former Beaverton High quarterback, who is facing another of a series of operations as he battles ulcerative colitis. Donations may be sent to the Taylor Barton Fund, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, attention Jay Waldron, 1211 S.W. Fifth Ave., Portland, OR 97204. Checks are also accepted at any branch of Key Bank.

• Steve Forbes has a new trainer and a contract for his next fight.

The Portland boxer, who lost a technical decision to Carlos Hernandez for the IBF junior lightweight championship in October, has dropped Ray Lampkin and hired Dan Birmingham as trainer.

'Ray just didn't have enough experience to be a lead trainer at the championship fight level,' says Forbes, 26, a Grant High graduate who moved back to Portland last year after six years in Las Vegas.

Forbes, 23-2, will continue to live in Portland but will leave for Tampa, Fla., to begin training for a March 19 bout against South African Philip Ndou in Johannesburg. Forbes, ranked third in the world by the IBF, says it will be a WBC elimination bout, with the survivor advancing to fight for the organization's lightweight title. The junior lightweight limit is 130, 5 pounds more than lightweight.

'My best wins are at that weight,' Forbes says. 'I'm a lot stronger at 135 Ñ I probably won't go back down (to junior lightweight). Ndou is a good fighter, but he hasn't fought the caliber of fighters I've faced.'

• Portland's Brian and Brett Joelson teamed to claim the -USTA National Father-Son Hard Court Doubles title in La Jolla, Calif., last month. Brian, 42, is a former state champion at Aloha High while Brett, 19, is a freshman at Texas A&M, his father's alma mater. They lost in the finals two years ago.

'We really wanted to win it this time,' says Brian, now second vice president of investments at Smith Barney. 'There are only so many years you can win, with me getting older and Brett maturing. We were real excited about winning.'

• From the it-doesn't-happen-often department: Jesuit High graduates won Freshman of the Year volleyball honors in their respective conferences this fall. Sophia Milo of Pepperdine won the award for the West Coast Conference while Elizabeth Bishop was honored by the Ivy League for her performance at Cornell.

• Victories were hard to come by with Mike Vick on the sidelines most of the season due to injury, but it -didn't affect Dave Cohen's job, at least this season. The former director of ticket sales for the Trail Blazers just finished his second season working in the same capacity for the Atlanta Falcons, who sold out all games in the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome for the second year in a row.

'We have sold over 40,000 season tickets,' Cohen says. 'We started the season with a waiting list of 3,000, and it has grown to 4,000 despite a very difficult year on the field. With Vick back and a new coach coming, fans realize we are going to make changes and get better. It may be a little more challenging for us to sell for next year, but I still feel we are in great shape to sell out again in '04.'

• The Gill Coliseum annex project at Oregon State is waiting on the $3 million pledge by ex-Beaver Gary Payton to get started, and Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, says he expects to soon talk to his client about it.

If Payton makes good on the pledge, OSU officials say they are close enough on donations for the $9 million undertaking to break ground in the spring. It will house coaching offices for basketball and wrestling as well as a wrestling practice area and two hardwood basketball courts.

The absolutely appropriate name for the new structure: Payton Place.

• Former Olympic 1,500-meter champion Joaquim Cruz continues to be active in his sport. The former Duck great, 41, lives in San Diego, where he coaches high school track, works with a small group of semi-elite distance runners and serves as a personal trainer. Cruz also has maintained allegiance to his native Brazil, working with youths in what he calls 'the Barefoot Club' as part of his foundation.

'We bring semi-used shoes to Brazil to use as bait to get kids off the street,' says Cruz, who initiated the program in 1998. 'We give them the shoes and get them started in running. After six months, I start working on the kids on other things Ñ staying in school, keeping up grades, attitude and behavior. It's a way to give back, and it's something that is really needed back home.'

• Mike Riley passes a milestone next Thursday. The OSU football coach will have taken a 30-minute run every day for four years.

'I had high cholesterol and weighed over 200 pounds for the first time in my life, and I decided to do something about it,' says the 6-foot Riley, 50, who was head coach of the San Diego Chargers when he began his routine Jan. 15, 2000. 'It has been a great thing for me. I dropped 30 pounds and got myself into shape.'

Riley considered quitting when he had pain in a knee this fall but kept going.

'Since football season has been over, the knee pain has settled down,' he says. 'Running on pavement, plus standing 2 1/2 hours a day at practice, was killing my legs. But I don't think I will quit. I'm just going to keep on going for a while.'