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Jay Paris: The ‘Great Scott’ goes the distance at CSUSM

The Carlsbad 5K returns on Sunday, which allows us to circle back to an old friend: Steve Scott.

One can’t think of North County’s epic run without a recollection of the iconic Scott. The area’s most endearing race has always been linked to America’s greatest miler, the great Scott of Carlsbad.

He was among the Carlsbad 5K founders in 1986, laying out the 3.1-mile, paperclip alignment with vistas revealing the Pacific Ocean and Carlsbad’s quaint village. Scott also won its first three races.

Nearly 10,000 athletes annually turn downtown into their version of Legoland, a record-setting venue where smiles outnumber sore limbs.

“It’s a beautiful course and you get a fast time,’’ Scott said. “If you’re a competitor who runs a 5K, Carlsbad is the one.’’

Scott is the one and only in many categories: running 136 sub-4:00 miles, setting the American mile record three times, being the first American to break 3:50 in the mile.

Uhm, we’re missing one: the only architect of Cal State San Marcos University’s track and field and cross county programs.

Going the distance was never a problem for Scott. But come again, how long has Scott answered to “Coach?”

“This is the 14th season,’’ and even Scott sounded surprised. “Amazing, isn’t it?’’

Almost as shocking as the Cougars’ perennial NAIA success. Scott’s teams have won national championships and conference titles as he continually produces athletes benefiting from the tutoring of this USA Track and Field Hall of Fame member.

Making Scott’s touch more impressive were the few amenities he once offered as CSU San Marcos founds its legs. While CSUSM continues to mature and blossom as a gem on the San Elijo Hills, it wasn’t always so.Or don’t your remember the team whirlpool back in the day?

“We had a trash bucket that we would pour ice and water into,’’ Scott said. “And that was it.’’

And good luck freshening up after surviving Scott’s demanding workouts.

“There wasn’t a shower on campus for us,’’ Scott said, and now we know why few sat next to his athletes in class. “After a training session they would have to go to their cars and change.’’

Much has flipped at the college as its transformation snowballs. Its application for NCAA status is in the works and verdict will be learned this summer.

But there was a time not long ago…

“It was tough early on,’’ Scott admitted. “We didn’t have a lot of scholarship money and it was tough getting quality athletes. And we had no field house, no on-campus housing, no trainer. If you got injured, they would just put some ice on it.

“But we’ve had a new building go up every year I’ve been here and we have a 2,500-seat gym being built. Now it is such a great school.’’

It has a great coach, one that didn’t expect to land here in 1999.

Scott had retired from competitive running and was in sales. But he hit a wall in selling himself on that line of work.

“I hated it,’’ Scott said. “I was miserable.’’

He agreed to participate in the school’s christening of its Mangrum Track and Soccer Field. But Scott had to renege, and Scott being Scott, he went the extra mile to make it right.

“I called the lady and said, “Hey, I’m so sorry I missed the groundbreaking and what can I do to make it up?’’’ Scott said.

She suggested Scott visit Bob Mangrum to thank him for making the school’s first athletic facility a reality. Scott rang Mangrum’s doorbell and was met by someone knowing the runner and his goods.

“He had a pair of my shoes that he won at an auction,’’ Scott said with a chuckle. “He just loved running so I went on a run with him.’’

Scott’s trek didn’t produce a career-best, but a career-change.

“Bob thought I was making millions of dollars when actually I was struggling and hating what I was doing,’’ Scott said. “We had a meeting the next week and I started January, 1999.’’

It’s a date meaning almost as much to Scott as July 7, 1982. That’s when he set the American outdoor mile record of 3:47.69, which stood for nearly 26 years

Now Scott, 57, distributes his knowledge to his charges, including this year’s standouts, which include Steven Ing, Western Nelson, Maurice Strickland, Kate Bouvatte and a mending Amber Rosario.

They are running’s future, but rest assured, Scott will visit his past on Sunday.

He’ll be in good cheer at the venerable Carlsbad 5K, a place where every runner knows his name.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] him on Twitter at jparis_sports.