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Media Contact: Jenica Lancy
Director of Marketing and Communications

The ALS Association Goldenwest Chapter

(415) 967-2572




Organized by students at San Francisco University High School, in partnership with The ALS Association Golden West Chapter, the annual 5K event in Golden Gate Park honors their legendary coach and supports the ALS community.

San Francisco, CA (April 23, 2019) – On the morning of Sunday, April 28, the greater community of San Francisco University High School (SFUHS) will come together, as they have for the past five years, to honor the memory of their legendary and beloved cross country and track and field coach, Jim Tracy, and all of those who are bravely fighting the battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). More than 150 participants and supporters are expected to run, walk, and cheer together at the fifth annual Jim Tracy 5K to Defeat ALS at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Organized by students at SFUHS, in partnership with The ALS Association Golden West Chapter, the annual 5K event is held to raise ALS awareness and support and to fuel the search for effective treatments and cures for the devastating disease.

Coach Jim Tracy touched countless lives during his 40 seasons at SFUHS. His unwavering dedication to his athletes’ success helped the SFUHS program to win thirteen state cross country titles and four straight California Division V cross country titles from 2009–2012. In recognition of his accomplishments, Jim was inducted into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame in 2013, and was the subject of an award-winning documentary, Running for Jim. Many SFUHS alumni, who worked with Coach Tracy over the course of his storied two-decade career, often credit him with “teaching” them how to run and encouraging the hard work and determination it takes to truly excel as an athlete.

“From the very first day of practice, I could tell that Jim’s dedication to ensuring the success of our cross country team was sincere and came from the bottom of his heart. Coaching was more than just a job for Jim -  it was a passion,” said Ana Telfer, SFUHS Class of 2017, and former Chair of the Jim Tracy 5k Student Organizing Committee. “He believed in training, not talent, and every person on his team worked daily to surpass their potential because they bought into his philosophy.”

Jim applied that same disciplined mentality to his fight against ALS before tragically losing his battle in 2014.  ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a fatal, neurodegenerative illness that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  People with ALS lose their ability to move, speak, swallow, and eventually the ability to breathe, while all five senses continue to function normally. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from diagnosis.

“Every runner on the team was saddened by the tragedy of his diagnosis, but I think that we were also inspired and intrigued by his no-nonsense attitude and his apparent lack of self-pity,” added Telfer.

“When Jim’s condition really started to impact his functionality, he would sometimes express his frustration that there still was no cure, despite the fact that ALS has been studied for so long. He started doing his own research and talking to those who were involved,” remembers SFUHS Athletic Director Jim Ketcham. “He developed a real appreciation both for the difficulty of the situation and also for the progress that they were making. Jim soon volunteered himself for every single clinical trial that he could. He never lost faith that one of these trials would be successful. I know that he would be so proud of our runners and the whole running community for supporting this cause.”

“While I was processing the personal loss of our coach, who taught me so many life lessons, I felt an intense need to create something to celebrate Jim,” shared Wyeth Colter, from SFUHS Class of 2016. “Jim was one of the most decorated high school running coaches of all time. In 2015, my teammates and I co founded the first annual Jim Tracy 5k to Defeat ALS, raising just over $13,000. Since this initial mission to honor Jim’s memory, this race has grown into so much more for the ALS community as a whole. Seeing the new leadership and success of younger UHS students as the race gets passed down year after year, in many ways, has been the most rewarding part of this experience.”

“On the first day of cross country practice of our freshman year, we were all told the story of Jim Tracy,  his commitment to running, and his tragic death from ALS,” shared Ella Shenkar, co-chair of the 2019 5k organizing committee. “When the last of his students graduated in 2018, if not for the Jim Tracy 5k, they might have taken the memory of him with them, “ said Elliott Weil, fellow 2019 co-chair. “Today, we can proudly say that every student and faculty member at University High School, as well as people around the Bay Area, knows about Jim and he is still inspiring young athletes.“

“I am so proud of the efforts and accomplishments of these committed individuals within our school,” said Julia Russell Eells, Head of School at San Francisco University High School. “We are dedicated to empowering our students to invent and sustain their own vision of success, in high school and throughout their lives. We want our students to have the courage and confidence to be able to live a life of integrity, inquiry, and sense of purpose larger than self.”

“There is no better example of dedication and determination in the fight against ALS than that which we see from our community partner, The ALS Association Golden West Chapter,” Eells continued. “Our ongoing collaboration through the annual Jim Tracy 5K to Defeat ALS is essential in their efforts to increase ALS awareness and to advance global research, local care services, and important public policy initiatives—all of which play a role in the search for effective treatments and cures for this devastating disease.”

“Through the funds raised by the Jim Tracy 5k, his legacy is also supporting the ALS community and truly making the world a better place, “ shared Ella Shenkar. “If we have learned anything from this experience, it is that everyone can help in the fight against ALS,” added Elliott Weil. “This year is going to be bigger and better than ever before.”

The Jim Tracy 5K to Defeat ALS is open to the public and all proceeds from the event will support the mission of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. Registration is available online until Friday, April 26, or on event day starting at 8:00 a.m., before the 9:00 a.m. start time. The fee to participate is $45, which includes a commemorative event t-shirt, and donations and fundraising are encouraged. For more information or to make a gift in support of the fight against ALS, please visit our website:

The mission of The ALS Association is to discover treatments and a cure for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest. Our Vision is to create a world without ALS. The Golden West Chapter serves people with ALS and their families in 31 counties throughout California and in the state of Hawaii.  Everything we do advances the search for effective treatments and cures for ALS. For more information about ALS and how you can help, please visit,

The mission of San Francisco University High School welcomes students of demonstrated motivation and ability to engage in an education that fosters responsibility and the spirited pursuit of knowledge. We are a school where adults believe in the promise of every student, and together we work to build and sustain a community of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and talents. UHS challenges each individual to live a life of integrity, inquiry, and purpose larger than the self. We are a courageous community dedicating ourselves to embracing education as a transformational, rather than a transactional, endeavor; empowering our students to invent and sustain their own vision of success and sense of purpose; establishing a school culture that provides a dynamic and challenging education while simultaneously promoting wellness, care, and wholeness; embodying our fundamental belief that collaboration among people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences is essential to deep learning; and ensuring that University High School remains a strategically nimble institution, engaged in learning, reflection, and growth on all levels. For more information about our school,  please visit