(6-9-17) – Twenty years as the cross-country coach at McFarland (Calif) High School  Jim White won an unprecedented nine state championships (1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2001).  What happened during that time was turned into a movie in 2015.

McFarland, California

The movie background

Jim White, a football coach, loses his job and moves with his family to take a new job at McFarland High School in McFarland, California, which is predominantly Latino. Discovering that some of his students are strong runners,  he organizes a boys’ cross country team with seven members who have little hope for their future. They become a close-knit, mutually supportive unit. Under White’s guidance the team becomes outstandingly successful, winning 11 state titles over the years, with many members escaping poverty and being first in their families to go to college or into military careers. Some members continue to attend practice even after graduation from college.

1987 McFarland CC Team
1987 McFarland Cross Country Team

Danny Diaz, a member of the 1987 team featured in the movie:

“Winners can come from anywhere. Winning is intentional. It requires you to sacrifice, to do that hard work, whether it’s studying for the test or running early in the morning or after work, you have to purposely set your mind and your heart to accomplishing these goals.  Even if you don’t win, just giving it “your best effort, you’re going to win in life. It’s going to pay off for you.”

Jim White, September 2014, PrepCalTrack.com

It’s not a documentary. It’s based on a true story, but not everything’s very factual, but it’s still an enjoyable movie. …I didn’t do some of the things they had me doin’ in there, but that’s alright, that’s Hollywood. We developed a program. Did I do it that way, no, but it’s okay in the movie. It turned out fine.

Oscar winner Kevin Costner played White in the Disney film, McFarland, USA:

“Jim White represents the very best of the best, a quiet, graceful man who somehow let these kids know what was possible. I was proud to get to play him.”


It was not a huge budgeted movie, much like Hoosiers, but it is a movie that will inspire  high school cross country athletes for many years to come.  McFarland USA is a movie of inspiration that focuses on the true worth of competing in a very competitive high school sport and working hard to accomplish those goals. The movie reflects on how ‘Blanco’, Jim White, helped in changing the lives of those young men, with life lessons learned,  a college education and moving forward in a positive way.

Today Coach White’s program at McFarland still thrives, even though he has been retired for more than a decade. His success has come from his past runners who are still very active in the community, school and the cross country team. A true legacy in McFarland.

Looking to watch a movie, be sure to find a Blu-Ray and watch it when you have a chance, its a must see if you run or coach in cross country.

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If you like the movies below you will love McFarland, USA. These movies all feature a strong coach and players who bought into the game-plan, it will refresh your love of high school sports.