When Gwen Robertson looks back on her 30 years coaching at Issaquah High School, her fondest memories don’t come from the fastest times or widest margins of defeat.
For Robertson, the most vivid images are the timid faces of uncertain freshmen she sees meandering out to the track each fall and spring.
“The bottom line is: I really enjoy teens,” she said. “I get to watch them grow up.”
Robertson, who will be inducted into the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame later this month, has watched an entire generation of young people grow up while leading the Eagles’ cross country and track teams, including assistant coach Tracy Silva and a number of others who have gone from competing with the Eagles to coaching them.
“I think it’s a reflection of Gwen,” Silva said of the desire alumni have to come back and help lead the program. “We know what the program is all about and we want to be a part of it.”
Silva was a member of the program and school’s first state championship during the spring of 1985, when Robertson led the Issaquah girls to district and state titles. When Silva thinks of her high school years and her relationship with Robertson, the trophies remain in the background.
A self-described “immature freshman,” Silva entered high school the same year Robertson began coaching with the Eagles. With a family that included three brothers, Silva said she was excited at the prospects of working with a young, female coach. Robertson remembers an introverted, quiet Silva that first year and said her growth in the program and in the years since is an example of why she has remained a coach for three decades.
“She was just very shy, I could hardly get two words out of her,” Robertson recalled. “Now, she is one of my primary assistants. She has just grown up great.”
Robertson was a talented and accomplished athlete in her own right, making the U.S. National Team in race walking from 1983-86. Career opportunities and her husband’s family ties brought her to the Pacific Northwest originally, but it is her years as a coach that have made Robertson a respected figure around the prep running community.
As she prepares for induction to the Hall of Fame, a process that was only recently facilitated when a rule stating only retired coaches could enter was changed, it is those relationships that continue to define her career.
“You don’t go into coaching to get honors and awards,” she said. “But when your peers recognize you that way, it makes you feel good that you have impacted people.”
Issaquah championships with Robertson
Girls cross country
KingCo champs: 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993
District champs: 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989
State champs: 1985, 1986, 1987
Boys cross country
KingCo champs: 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009
District champs: 2009
State runner-up: 2002
Girls track and field
1983: Laura Lavine, Discuss; Mary Moore, High Jump
1984: Laura Lavine, Discus, Shot Put
1991: Sarah Arrowsmith, High Jump
2005: Lauren Maris, 800 meters
2006: Lauren Baba, Jenna Suttmeier, Mary Wuest, Abbie Richert, 1600 meter relay
2008: Kim Varney, Bonnie Young, Haida Ikeda, Kaley Allison, 1600 meter relay
2011: Eva Perry, Pole Vault
Boys track and field
1985: David Lavine, Discus
1986: David Lavine, Discus
1998: Joe Brosseau, 800 meter; Brady Jones, Discus
2004: Jon Harding, 3200 meters