The Portland Trail Blazers will honor Chester Garrison and Rowe cross country with a check for $2,500 in recognition of Garrison and his team's accomplishments
by: John Denny, Oregon Youth Sports Coach of the Year Chester Garrison

MILWAUKIE - Portland Trail Blazers players and Blazers mascot Blaze will visit Rowe Middle School on Wednesday, April 9, to honor Rowe cross country coach and science teacher Chester Garrison.

Garrison has been named Northwest Ford/Portland Trail Blazers 2007 Coach of the Year for his success at establishing Rowe as a state power in cross country over a short period of time.

Garrison started a cross country program at Rowe three years ago as a volunteer coach. The program now receives partial funding from the school district, and last fall Rowe's eighth grade boys cross country team won the state middle school team championship.

Nominated by staff at Rowe, Garrison was among 900 nominees from middle school, high school and club and community sports programs around the state.

'I'm really flattered, and I'm very thankful to the staff members at this school for realizing that the program is good the for the kids and for the school, and for their nominating me,' Garrison said. 'I'm honored, but I'm also surprised. This is only the third year of our program and I'm sure there are many, many deserving individuals out there who have been at it for much longer than I have.'

During their visit next month, the Blazers will present Garrison with a check for $2,500 for his cross country program.

Garrison said he plans to use the money to purchase uniforms and rain slickers for his athletes.

'We've been borrowing uniforms from our track team the last three years,' Garrison said. 'It puts added wear and tear on those uniforms and we have to replace them more often.'

Garrison has been coaching middle school track for the past 10 years.

'Cross country is my passion,' said Garrison. 'I'd like to establish the program so that it will continue when I'm gone. Someday I'd like to move up to coaching at the high school, and I don't want the program to disappear when I'm no longer here.'

Garrison says he had 23 boys and girls out for cross country in his first year heading up Rowe's program.

In the second year of the program, Garrison had 45 athletes out for cross country and Rowe eighth grade boys won district and Portland City titles.

Last fall he had 58 participants, and his eighth grade boys won Portland City and state championships.

Garrison, who is an avid advocate for other middle school sports besides cross country, said that students' work in the classroom improves when they participate in sports because they must maintain a certain GPA in order to participate.

'The kids need something to do after school,' said Garrison. 'We need our after-school athletics and sports.'

Garrison noted that all middle school sports at Rowe except for track and field were dropped in 1991 because of budget constraints, but they are gradually being returned.

Garrison said that there is currently district funding for middle school track and field, cross country, volleyball and wrestling. A middle school intramural basketball program was added this school year.

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