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After two years as an assistant under Tracy Smith, Orie Gonzales is excited to be Crook County High School's new cross country coach

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Orie Gonzalez, a fourth grade teacher at Barnes Butte Elementary, takes over as CCHS head cross country coach after long-time head coach Tracy Smith recently retired.It's a new day for Crook County High School cross country.

After 23 years as the head coach, Tracy Smith suddenly retired in mid-July.

In August, Orie Gonzales, a fourth grade teacher at Barnes Butte Elementary, was named as his replacement.

"Tracy is a special guy and I'm lucky enough that I got to work with him for a few years before he decided he wasn't going to do this anymore," Gonzales said. "But it's never easy to take over after someone like Tracy."

Gonzales, who has been an assistant coach the last two years, inherits a program that has reached new heights in recent years.

In 2017, the Cowboys won their first state championship since 1979. Then, after moving up to Class 5A last year, the team surprised people with a strong second-place showing.

Although the Cowgirls were not as strong as the Cowboys, they are still expected to have a solid team.

Gonzales said that she does not expect to make any major changes to the program.

"Personally, I don't try to fix things that aren't broken," Gonzales said. "We've been pretty successful the past couple of years, so I plan to continue on with the same ideas and same workout plans, but with my own twists on it."

Gonzales said that most of the differences anyone will see are because of the difference in personalities between her and Smith.

"My philosophy is very similar to his, but things will be slightly different due to the fact that I may be a tad more OCD than Tracy is," she said. "I don't want to mess with what Tracy has done, starting slow, letting the kids work up and not trying to put too much on them early."

Gonzales ran track and cross country at Oakridge High School, and continued her running career at Eastern Oregon University.

"Oakridge is a really small town, but it's big on running," she said. "I started running with my mom when I was about six. So, I started running very young and fell in love with the sport. I haven't stopped running ever since."

Gonzales added that she is excited for the opportunity.

"I'm really excited," she said. "I love cross country and I love this community, so being able to get this opportunity is really special to me. I'm going to do the best that I can for the kids and I hope that everyone has a fun season and runs the best that they can."

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