Aug | 7

Meet Inspring Coaches Finalists Davis, Heintz, Chavez, Pose & Darby

Vote for your favorite finalist.

Vote for your favorite finalist.

Throughout the month of August, Brooks will be highlighting each of the 25 coaches who were selected as finalists for the 2012 Inspiring Coach of the Year. These coaches were selected after reviewing more than 1,300 nominations for high school track and/or cross country coaches who inspire their athletes every day.

Tell us who your favorite coach is by voting at September 2, 2012, Brooks will select the 2012 Inspiring Coach of the Year.

Coach David Davis

Coach Davis

Coach David Davis

Mountain View High School
Stafford, VA

What is your favorite race to either watch or run?  Cross Country – 5K to watch, the 400 intermediate hurdles to run, but being a track athlete and a coach for over 45 years you have to like all aspects of track and field.

What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? After 30 plus years there are a lot, but one does stand out more than others. I had a female athlete that had a brain tumor when she was a freshman. We let her train and participate in some of the distance races and I believe she was a 7 minute miler. At one of the last meets of the season she told me she was going to run cross country and then break 5:40 for the mile the next year. She did with a time of about 5:17 for the 1600. She went on to become one of the top distance runners in the state of Virginia, received financial aid to run at James Madison University, and then she won the Marine Corp Marathon in her first attempt.  We still stay in touch today.

Others were watching one of my female athletes winning the 800 meter national championship in 2011 and seeing the facial expressions of the athletes when they PR, win a race or a championship.

Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? Yes – Larry Johnson, my high school basketball coach, he also became co-director of athletics for the Virginia High School League where he continued to help and influence me when I started coaching.

Coach Eric Heintz

Marist School
Atlanta, GA

Coach Eric Heintz

Coach Eric Heintz

How many athletes are on your track/XC team? We usually carry around 115-120 runners during cross country season but we have 160 on the roster for this fall!  Of those, we will typically see 50-60 of them in the spring for track and field.  As a small school with only 780 high school kids, we share a lot of athletes with other sports programs.

Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? I have had several coaches and mentors that have inspired me during high school and beyond.  The first coach I ever had for cross country was my middle school coach Jim Lefler.  He ultimately became an assistant coach at the high school so I was blessed to have him for five straight years.  He was not a scientist, he was not a great runner, and he was not the best technical coach, but he knew people left and right.  He could determine what made us tick and set us on the right course of action at any moment.  He could say the right words in the moment of defeat or give the needed congratulatory bear hug during the pinnacle of celebration.  He is the man that made me want to coach first.  I didn’t come to appreciate my high school distance coach for track, Ken Simko, until my senior year.  He lacked the flashiness and tattoos that Coach Lefler had; he had a family that came to practice with him; he had the technical skills but also a quiet leadership that a 14 year old can’t understand let alone admire.  Ken guided me through my first coaching jobs and was the first person I called with any question.  He loved the sport and not just the running and pushed me to challenge my charges with higher expectations while rethinking my conceptualization of training.  My college coach, Dick Mann, had been coaching track and cross country in one form or another for over forty years when I joined him in 1999.  He is still coaching track and cross country today!  Coach Mann would literally give you his shirt off his back if you needed it.  He would host 30-40 runners at his home and use his own money to feed us.  This man cared more about us as individuals than any other coach I have been associated with during my short career.  He had coached 9:00 minute high school two milers and 47 second 400m runners but you, no matter your speed, were just as important and you knew it.  His concern and love was infectious.  Finally, I was blessed to work with Roy Benson during my first few years at Marist.  The man had won countless state championships at Marist, had turned the tiny school into a regional powerhouse, but also opened his team and heart to me.  He guided me, mentored me, and proved to me that no matter how much technical and scientific knowledge you have, that coaching is an art form that is just as much about the people as it is about the physiology.  Together, these coaches have helped me become the coach that I am today and I am truly indebted to them all.

What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? I will share the two that stand out the most as I reflect here.  In the fall of 2010 Marist had been expected to be a very   good team but certainly not a championship team.  All season long we were a distant 2nd in the state behind two powerhouse teams and perennial rivals.  These schools had beaten us consistently all year with the boys chasing a mainstay atop the podium and the girls chasing the up and coming heir apparent to the throne.  In early October both teams beat us by over 100 points.  In late October both teams beat us by 60-70 points.  However, in early November something changed.  The boys raced first and despite not placing a single boy in the top 10, our pack came charging across the finish line within 10 seconds of each other.  Our point total was quite high but it was enough to take the crown by just a handful of points – a true team effort led not by any single individual but the efforts of all.  I collapsed on the ground in disbelief.  The girls started just a few moments later and several heroic efforts put us convincingly in 1st place.  No one in Georgia had predicted the Marist sweep (most certainly not I) but our runners who put Marist and the team ahead of themselves, brought home the victories.   Seeing these young men and women astride the podium arm in arm, smiles beaming from here to the moon, I couldn’t help but smile for weeks.  This would be very difficult to ever top, but our team banquet after this past season in 2011 was possibly my favorite coaching moment.  We didn’t win anything that day, heck, I was barely even coaching, but I saw on the faces of these runners and the tears glistening on their cheeks a love and passion that transcends any course, championship or trophy.  Runner after runner was bawling as they received their awards for the final time.  Countless hugs and embraces lingered for longer than ever expected.  Kids refused to leave campus when the evening was over.  A handful of kids took off their shoes and ran our warm up loop one last time in their dress clothes.  It was heart breaking and uplifting at the same time.  This sport, which means so much to me, had given these kids so much more than just an avenue to compete.  It had given them another family, one that would always be there no matter the distance.  That is why I coach!

Coach Hernando Chavez

Taos High School
Taos, NM

Coach Hernando Chavez

Coach Hernando Chavez

Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? I had so many wonderful coaches while running at Taos High School. Two coaches in particular that inspired me with Coach Benny Mitchell and Coach Bruce Gomez. Today, these gentleman are still mentoring me as a coach.

What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? In just a few short years, I have collected so many great memories. Some that stand out in particular include winning the 2010 Boys XC District Championship. This was the first District Championship for Taos High in over 20 years. Just this past spring, we collected a Boys District Championship in Track, the first in 26 years. As an Assistant Track Coach, I am primarily responsible for the Boys and Girls Distance Runners. A total of 6 athletes qualified to run at the State Track Championships in the distance events. At State, 3 runners achieved All State Honors. In each of these experiences and many more, what brings me the greatest satisfaction is seeing these athletes be so proud and happy of their efforts and accomplishments. These young men and women work extremely hard in achieving their goals in XC and Track, all while being exemplary students in the classroom and role models in the community.

What is your favorite race to either watch or run? I still enjoy both running and watching the 5K. In my opinion it is the perfect mix between speed and endurance.


Coach Israel Pose

Torrance High School
Torrance, CA

Coach Israel Pose

Coach Israel Pose

Did you run track/XC in college? I ran at El Camino College, in Southern California, in 1991 and 1992 both XC and track.  I led our team to the State Team title as a soph.  I was also runner up in State Championships at 10,000 meters as a soph.  I transferred to Fresno State in spring of 1994, where I competed in XC and in both indoor and outdoor track.

What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? When I think of this question, I tend to think about Kent Morikawa, who went on to UCLA, winning CIF and qualifying to Foot Locker Nationals in 2006.  Or I think about when our boy’s team in 2006 went to the State Finals for the first time in school history.  Or also when our girls went for the first time to the State Finals in 2001… but I don’t think those are my FAVORITE coaching moments.  My favorite coaching moments is when I see kids who never thought they could do something, do it.  I love to prove to kids that they can achieve a goal, or achieve a time, or not walk up a hill, or finish a tough workout strong.

I have gotten pretty good in predicting what certain kids can run time wise, especially in track.  I love telling them a time and watch them look at me as if I was crazy.  Then when they go out there and do it, I love to watch their faces of joy and watch their self esteem sky rocket.

Without a doubt, those are my most precious coaching moments!

What is your favorite race to either watch or run? I absolutely LOVE watching meets of any kind.  Olympics, world champs, state champs, etc… but for me, my most satisfaction comes from watching our teams compete at our league championships every year.  For the past 16 years I have always instilled on our program that league finals is THE most important meet of the year.  We focus on that.  That’s the meet where we want to be at our best.  We ask for the most support and especially for our seniors, which for many of them, it might their last race of their HS career.  So the day before, we have senior day.  The seniors get a chance to address the team and inspire them to do their best and they discuss what it has meant for them to be on our team.  They ask the team to run hard for the seniors and to please be out there on the course and cheer them on hard.  It’s amazing to see these kids open up to the team in such a way. It’s a very moving experience for me, especially knowing some of these kids are very quiet freshman, to being able to stand in front of another 100 teens and spill their feelings as seniors four years later!  I feel my proudest then when on race day I see each kid go all out for each other.  It’s truly amazing!


Coach Jeremy Darby

Landrum High School
Campobello, SC

Coach Jeremy Darby

Coach Jeremy Darby

Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school?  Yes, my coach’s name was Robert “Bobby” Urban.  He was a former North Carolina state champ in the 3200 meter run.  He always encouraged every type of runner on our team.  Whether you were a varsity guy or a “back-of-the-pack” guy, Coach Urban always saw your potential to be a great runner.  What amazed me about Urban was how well he knew everyone’s 5K PR; which is quite a feat if there are over 50 runners on your squad.  Coach could always look at you after a race and say, “Hey Darby, you just ran a 18:42………that’s a new PR for you!”  It was amazing he retained all that info.  Coach Urban also knew ways to make you love the sport of cross country.    He always had interesting practices and games that made running more fun.  He is pretty much one of the biggest reasons I became a coach.

What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? No way I can just list one so here are a few:

  1. No doubt in 2008…… was my very first year coaching XC and my boys team won the state championship.  No real secret to how we won the championship……I already had great athletes….they just needed someone who would push them to train during the summer months before the season started.  When the scoring was over and we were declared state champs, it was instant creditability for the impact of summer conditioning.  From then on, my team has made summer conditioning a priority, with a lot less begging from me.
  2. Also in 2008……my girls team was a lot less talented, however we made it a team goal to be in the top 5 at state which was very lofty for us.  My girls showed out at the state meet and executed our game plan perfectly.  They ended up placing 2nd earning state runner-up honors!  We had obviously set our sights too low but were impressed to have risen to such a challenge.  What makes this story so awesome, is that my girl’s team was comprised of nothing but 7th and 8th graders. (I only had two high schoolers on the team that year but they were not top 7)  We had achieved a state-runner up finish with nothing but middle schoolers!!!
  3. Probably the highest point in my coaching career happened in 2009 when both my girls and my boys team won the state championship in the same year.  Winning a state championship is a feeling of victory and joy like no other……..however winning two championships within 30 minutes of each other is absolutely indescribable.  I had a boys team coming off of a rookie season state championship in 2008 and a girls team looking for more than just a runner-up trophy.  What can I say?  They just really wanted it.  We trained our butts off that year and by the time the state championship meet rolled around……I had all the confidence in the world that they were going to pull it off.  We even made our catch phrase that year “14:59” after the band Sugar Ray’s second album.  It was our way of saying that our 15 minutes of fame in cross country wasn’t over yet and we sure proved it that year.  We had 11 athletes named to the all-state team and the girls won by one of the biggest point deficits in state history ( Landrum was 1st with 42 points while Pendleton was 2nd with 133 points.)
  4. Fast forward to the state championship in 2011…….(in 2010 my boys repeated for a 3rd consecutive state championship while my girls earned another state runner-up honor).  2011 was a massive rebuilding year for our team as graduation eventually catches up to any high school team.  I only had about one remaining member on my boys squad from my first year coaching….everyone else was a newbie or someone who came on the team later.  I spent the whole season worried that we couldn’t live up to the communities expectations for our team, as well as our state championship streak.  We did not earn any state titles in 2011 but both my girls and guys did manage state runner-up honors.   It was a pretty miserable bus ride home until one of my long time runners made an observation.  He said, “Hey coach, since you took over this team we have never been to the state championship and returned home empty-handed……..we have either won the title or got the runner-up trophy.”  This put a big smile on my face and was probably the best compliment anyone had given me.  In my four short years we had always placed either first or second in the state meet (both girls and guys).  Four state championships and Four runner-up finishes in four years is something to be proud of.  And what I noticed was how much our squads have changed.  I no longer had the same group of guys and girls that I started with.  We had built a successful XC program that had introduced new athletes to the sport and had made them successful along the way.  This was probably one of my most proud moments.

What is your favorite race to either watch or run?  I ran the 4×800 relay in high school and I still get a rush from coaching relays.  There is just something special about this event for me.  It’s the closest thing we have to a distance relay in high school track.  We take great pride in our 4×800 teams at Landrum.  I am proud to say that I have coached 5 separate 4×800 relay teams to state championships in high school track (3 girls teams and 2 boys).

Vote Today

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Read all the finalists’ stories on Brooks’ Facebook page and vote on your favorite. The community’s votes will be one of the factors we use to choose our 2012 Most Inspiring Coach. The winner will be announced this fall, so stay tuned!


About Joel
I am a runner in Seattle, Washington. When I'm not at work, I enjoy camping, running trail races and exploring the outdoors.

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