Costa Mesa


July 29, 2002

Richard Dunn

In an era dominated by Coach Joe Fisher's Costa Mesa High

Mustangs, his cross country teams from 1969 to 1980 brought home a

lot more than medals and trophies. Fisher, who owned property in

Idaho and conducted memorable running camps there each summer for his

Mustangs, insisted on teamwork and the Costa Mesa boys responded with

a 10-year league dual-meet winning streak, as well as several


invitational victories and a CIF Southern Section 3-A championship in


"We expected a lot out of them, and they gave everything they had

to perform well," Fisher, who coached with his wife, Lindra, said of

his Mesa runners. "We never had the best talent, but there was a lot

of determination and desire. The kids believed in themselves. They

understood how to work hard and understood teamwork."

Fisher, now retired and living in Council, Idaho, where he held

running camps, later coached at NAIA Fort Hays State University in

Kansas, NCAA Division III State University of New York at Geneseo and

NCAA Division II Moorhead State in Minnesota. But his influence on

the Mustangs of yesteryear remains a constant in the lives of many,

including Mark Howard, a Mesa runner from 1978 to '82.

"Coach Fisher taught us several qualities -- discipline, desire,

loyalty, respect, teamwork, goal-setting and striving to achieve our

goals," Howard wrote in an e-mail to former teammates. "He made sure

in our practices to have us prepared mentally, emotionally and

physically, to ready us for our competition. We continue to use the

things he instilled in us in our daily lives."

Howard added it was Fisher, strict on students keeping their

grades up, who inspired him to become a cross country coach.

Fisher, who also coached the Mesa girls to several league titles,

guided the Mustang boys to an unprecedented six Orange County

Championships in his tenure.

"I'll always remember those teams," Fisher said. "Those kids

really worked hard and had a great love for running and each other.

They were just one big family."

Fisher, who compiled a 209-8 dual-meet record at Costa Mesa, was

named California High School Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1978

and started the Southern California CIF Cross Country Coaches'

Association in 1974, when he served as the first president.

"It was a super bunch of guys and gals who really worked hard,"

Fisher said of his Costa Mesa career.

Prior to Costa Mesa, Fisher taught and coached in Los Angeles for

seven years, then interviewed with former Costa Mesa Athletic

Director Bob Hunter and the Newport-Mesa School District was never

the same.

Fisher mapped out hill runs along the Back Bay, beach runs on

Saturdays in the summer, Santa Ana River-to-ocean runs (10.9 miles),

the Airport Loop (nine miles) and the Bear Street Run (5.6 miles), as

well as Agony Hill near UC Irvine.

"Coach Fisher emphasized packing, and it carried into our races,

which helped us to win," Howard said.

As a collegiate coach, Fisher guided 53 All-American runners and

26 Academic All-Americans, including 34 All-Americans in seven years

at Fort Hays State.

Fisher retired after 37 years of coaching in 1999, following seven

years at Moorhead State.

The latest honoree in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame, Fisher

and his wife of 43 years live on 175 acres on the cusp of the

national forest and the Snake River, 120 miles northwest of Boise.

They operate a farm with cattle about eight miles out of Council.

They have four grown children (two boys and two girls) and six


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