To be a Cheesemaker

It was last spring when Patrick Zweifel decided to help out the Tillamook distance track kids. Remembering a time when the Cheesemakers struck fear into their opponents when the gun went off, Zweifel couldn’t help but be a bit underwhelmed at the current state of his alma mater.

When Pat Zweifel crossed the finish line at the 1989 AA state meet he was able to turn around and see his twin brother Mark Zweifel right behind him, and then another teammate Jason Olsen finishing third. The Cheesemakers left that day making history, it was the lowest amount of points scored at the state meet ever for the AA classification, making them one of the best small school teams the state has ever seen to this day.

It was a family affair, you cannot mention Tillamook cross country without mentioning the last name Zweifel. After all, Pat and his brothers Mark and Karl still hold the three fastest 3k times ever run in a Tillamook jersey. Zweifel is quick to point out that although he expects his father (who’s currently sits at 10th on the list) should be bumped off this spring, he might have been the most talented of all of them as he never ran more than eight miles a week.

Coach Zweifel admits that they had some talent back in the day, but insist that the strength of the team was the leadership that came from within the program, and that not all of his teammates were naturally talented, “we had kids that had no business being out for cross country finishing in the top 25 at state. Kids that were big, blocky, and were picked on as freshmen for being so big and slow. We took kids like that, made them believe in our program, and four years later they are placing at state individually.” Zweifel also commended his former coach Fred Berkey, and had this to say about him “ he never ran himself, but it amazes me today how well and systematic his approach to training was without his own personal experience.” Tillamook has not had a girls team qualify for state since the Berkey era, something Zweifel hopes to correct sooner rather than later.

Almost all distance runners have a chip on their shoulder already, but Tillamook’s chip was a bit larger than everyone else’s, “It came from being a smaller school
without the same resources as the larger schools. We were lucky to always
have matching socks. Still to this day I enjoy being rather indistinguishable to the crowd on race day, but come out on top of most of those who like to show their flash.” The Cheesemakers turned their disadvantages into advantages. They embraced the blue collar essence that made up the team and used it as fuel. Zweifel said the team found comfort in “beating those who thought they were better than us because of where they were from.”

Zweifel is already starting to make big waves in Tillamook. His boys team is ranked in the top ten and has a great shot at winning the district title later in the year. Zweifel also created the Ultimook Invitational, Tillamook’s home invite that became a big deal in town, “no one had ever been a part of something like that. It was the largest high school sporting event ever to be held in Tillamook County. For them (i.e. Kids and family) to see that and say that they were a part of it, was very important.” The course is rugged, with two river crossings, a mud pit, and a hill that takes your breath away just at the sight of it. The course is everything that Tillamook cross country represents. The course is so mean it’s almost more of a right of passage than an xc course. It’s impossible to finish the race without getting a little beat up. There’s nothing glamourous about it.

Coach Zweifel has created what he calls the Tillamook Distance Project. This is what he hopes will act as the bridge, the transitional tool to bring back the dynasty that was. The distance project focuses on the teams goals, short term and long term. The project also includes everything from recruiting to attendance, to stating how cross country kids should be role models for the rest of the school, but he knows that there is only so much he can do. He’ll need leaders, and then he’ll need new ones to replace those. Like the team that dominated in the late 80’s, at the end of the day it’s your teammates who you bleed with come race day. Last spring while volunteering Zweifel “asked the kids what their long term goals were, and not one of them mentioned anything about a team.” Instantly Zweifel knew what needed to change. This was the main difference between the Cheesemakers of the old and the Cheesemakers of the new, “when you asked us what our goals were, everyone had the goal of winning state as a team as their number one goal, individual goals always came second.” The coastal kids today are cut of the same cloth, it’s just the mentality that needs to change, the team concept has simply slipped away.

Zweifel believes that his team is starting to buy into the team concept, and that once they do completely, there is no limit to what his teams, both boys and girls can accomplish. Zweifel tells his kids that, “the most important thing they need to remember from my coaching is that the day you put your team before yourself, is the day special things begin to happen for your team and yourself. This is the philosophy we had here at Tillamook back then. There was nothing we wouldn't do for each other.”

They were a small school with a small roster, but they had great leaders and a desire to win that was unmatched, “My brothers and I used to have to wake up to milk cows at 6:00am. I would wake up at 4:00 am, run 5 miles, then get back into bed before my brother woke up so he never knew I was getting some extra runs in.” It’s safe to say that when kids tell coach Zweifel that they didn’t have time to run today, that just doesn’t cut it.

Zweifel acknowledges that the rivalry between he and his twin brother Mark was intense. After Pat finished second as a junior and his brother Mark finishing third by just .5, Zweifel knew one of them would win state next fall, “I knew that if I was going to beat my brother I was going to beat the best in the state.” Neither of the brothers liked losing to the other, but at the end of the day it was about the name across the front of their singlet.

Coach Zweifel was apart of the creation of Tillamook XC. He was one of the original members that helped mold the program. Now he’s back. He knows the ingredients, it’s the same for most programs - team leadership, work ethic, and the desire to win. The only difference now is that his current runners must decide for themselves how good they want to be, this is something Zweifel nor any coach can truly decide. Zweifel will continue to preach what he believes in, which is being a team, a family. If this happens, Zweifel believes that being fast will take care of itself. Aaron Josi and Paulo Velez will lead the boys team as a formidable 1-2 punch, but in order to do something really special Zweifel knows it will take an entire team coming together as one.

The 2012 Cheesemakers are sporting warmups for the first time ever. There’s nothing flashy about them, just a simple design with Tillamook written over the classic CC with an arrow through it. There might not ever be anything flashy about Tillamook’s appearance, and that’s okay with coach Zweifel. What is flashy are shiny blue trophies to be brought home from the state meet, Zweifel has been apart of three of them, and you better believe he’s cleared room in Tillamook’s trophy case for more. Zweifel does not just want to simply bring back the “golden days”, this is not about him, this about the chance for the kids of Tillamook cross country today to write their own story and add their own legacy to one that was all but forgotten about - a group of kids that would have been called misfits in any other sport that became a family and state champions forever.

-Tillamook will be competing at the Cowapa League Championships on Thursday October 25th in Gearhart Oregon with hopes of qualifying for the state meet at Lane Community College, Saturday November 3rd.