Michael Streck-Woodard, has had a commanding presence as Mountain View High's track and field coach since last February. And with good reason. Wrangling a roster of 121 students and program with a history of instability, it is no surprise that school officials sought some strong leadership from a coach that students describe as motivational, enthusiastic and a little intense.
Streck-Woodard is a Bay Area native, who attended Humboldt State University where he got a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science. He was hired in last May by Shelley Smith, the athletic director at Mountain View High, to work in the strength and conditioning program for the football team. Smith said that Streck-Woodard seemed like a great fit for the job; he had good experience, was on the track and football team in college and was a personal trainer for 24-Hour Fitness.
"We also liked his philosophy and his approach to our philosophy," Smith said.
Toward the end of the summer, Smith still needed to fill two positions, including head coach for the track team. The track team has had problems with instability in the past because it has been difficult to fill the position with a long-term coach, he said.
"We had a lot of turnover with our track people," Smith said, adding that the situation was a cause for concern for parents. Streck-Woodard seemed to be the best fit for the job, and so far things are working out, according to Smith.
Unlike most high school athletics, track involves a large number of students who compete in events like the hurdling, sprints, throws and jumps. This makes it hard to manage as a coach without the help of a few assistant coaches. "For track, you really need four or even five assistant coaches to split things up," Smith said.
Streck-Woodard has three assistants, one of whom is his father, Chris Woodard. Woodard is a battalion chief for the Palo Alto Fire Department and volunteers his time as an assistant coach. Woodard used to coach track in Oklahoma, and held unofficial records there for the long jump and triple jump.
Despite the large roster, people who visit the track practice will find Streck-Woodard working one-on-one with students, helping them with their form and technique.
The team has been successful so far this year. Smith said the team did well at a meet in Palo Alto last month, especially the boys varsity. Streck-Woodard said the girls junior varsity team has also improved a lot this spring.
Beyond their success this season, track students have come to like "Coach Mike."
"He's really connected with the team, and charismatic," said Kolisa Nhlapo, a sprinter and hurdler on the girls varsity team. Nhlapo has been on the track team for four years, and said the coaches have switched a lot in the past.
Krysta Korpontinos, a varsity sprinter in her third year of track, said Streck-Woodard sometimes connects with the students off the field by coming to what she called "pasta parties," where students load up on pasta and salad the night before a meet.
After the track season, Smith said Streck-Woodard will continue to work on campus during the summer and into the fall as an assistant coach for the wide receivers and defensive backs on the football team.