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Longtime BCS teacher, coach stepping down | Prep sports feature
Larry Royce has always believed in mental toughness.
It was a staple of his track and field teams at Port Townsend High School, where he was the head coach nearly 40 years ago, and was at its height at the 1976 Class 1A state meet, where his team claimed the team scoring championship.
The runner-up that day was a team he would not only become a part of, but in some ways come to define: Bellevue Christian School.
"I knew [then-BCS coach] Mike Strong and we ended up talking to one another," Royce said. "He indicated he was resigning from his position and encouraged me to apply."
Royce took Strong's advice, accepted a position at Bellevue Christian beginning the following fall and in the decades since, has become a fixture around the Clyde Hill campus.
But beginning next school year, that will change.
Royce announced recently he will retire from both his teaching and coaching duties when the current school year ends, leaving behind a legacy that includes championships on the field, court and track and countless lives influenced in the classroom. He joins longtime boys basketball coach Mike Downs (who remains a teacher at Three Points Elementary) in his resignation from the athletic department this year after a tenure that has spanned parts of five decades.
For the past 16 years, Royce has shared the track with boys head coach Ed Sloan.
"It was never about him," Sloan said of his longtime colleague. "It has been such a positive environment and that has brought the success we've had."
That success at Bellevue Christian has included five Class 1A girls state championships, including a three-peat from 2010-12, nearly three dozen individual and relay state titles and recognition as a National Coach of the Year from the National Federation of State High School Associations for 2010.
Before BCS, Royce spent time at South Kitsap, Pilchuck and Port Townsend high schools before beginning what would be come a 37-year tenure in Clyde Hill.
"He is kind of Mr. BCS, Mr. Viking," Sloan said. "Everything he has ever done has been for the betterment of this community."
Current AD Mark DeJonge, who's wife attended BCS and played soccer and was a state title winner in the hurdles on the track team, echoed Sloan's sentiments in regard to Royce's selflessness and said in the seven years he has served in his position, Royce simply refused to leverage his previous tenure as AD in the decision making process.
"Never once did he make me feel like I was doing something wrong," DeJonge said. "In a lot of ways, he was a mentor for me."
Retirement will take Royce and his wife to their children and grandchildren in familiar locale in Spokane, where many of the coach's fondest memories have been made at neighboring Eastern Washington University and the 1A state meet.
A son-in-law who coaches in the area has already begun recruiting Royce to get back on the sidelines at a local middle school and he said woodworking and a project Hot Rod will also help keep his time filled.
While the promise of retirement is an enticing one, Royce said the roots he and his family have laid at BCS will always remain, and he plans to come back each year for the school's invitational track meet.
"It's become like a big family around here," he said. "I'm going to miss what I'm doing."
Of all the things his colleagues and student-athletes will miss the most about Royce, his booming voice at practice may top the list, according to Sloan. FILE PHOTO
Royce speaks to a group before practice at the BCS track in 2011. FILE PHOTO