We first met Claude Holland when he was coach at John Adams high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The year was 1985 and his team has just won the Pathmark National Scholastic Classic mile relay in 3:20.1.
The meet - which would become the National Scholastic Indoor Track and Field Championships – was wrapping up its 2nd year in New Jersey at Princeton University's Jadwyn Gym. The time was about 6 PM, and Claude had to pick up his team's medals quickly, hop back in his car with his four athletes, and return to Cleveland. He had a 10 hour drive in front of him and the road conditions were not especially favorable. We all thought to ourselves, "This must be quite an individual to dedicate himself like this to these kids.”
And dedicated he is.
Fast forward to the early part of this century, and Coach Holland appears at the Nike indoor Nationals. This time he came with a different team – Cleveland Heights high school – where he has been coaching since 1998. Coach Holland's teams are competitive as usual and he has several nationally ranked relay teams and individuals.
Claude was a three-time all-state athlete at John Adams High, where he set the school record in the 880 yard run. He became a National Junior Champion in the 880 in 1974. He went on to the University of Cincinnati where he was a member of an NCAA championship relay qualifier. He was also team captain for his sophomore through senior years. Some say he has inherited special genes – his mother was a hurdler on the 1948 U. S. Olympic team!
Coach Holland's coaching success is no less prolific than his personal athletic accomplishments. His team has won 2 state titles and have been runners up 3 times, no easy task in a great track state like Ohio. He has coached eight National AAU Junior Champions and eleven Ohio State individual champions. His athletes having included Harold Mattox (46.7 for 400m, 1984), (Kevin McKinley 13.894 for 110m hurdles, 1982), and the 2007 state record Cleveland Heights 4 x 800m relay team(7:41.17). The 2007 state record performance brought the 4 x 800 record back to Cleveland when the Holland coached John Adams had held the record from 1991 to 2001.
In addition to his coaching accomplishments, Coach Holland also has served as meet director for numerous league and regional AAU Junior Olympics meets, and for the 2004 International Children's Olympic Games. He also is National Athletic Director, Head Coach, and Team Manager of People to People Sports Ambassadors, a position that has taken him to Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Germany. In the summer, he oversees and coaches the Rebel Track Club.
It is fitting and ironic that the Ohio Track and Field and Cross-Country Hall of Fame will induct Coach Holland into its membership this year, the same year we have selected him to be the Mike Byrnes Coach of the Year. No one is more deserving.