Coach and Me is a series of stories during the 2021-22 school year that reflect on the relationships between coaches and their children. It will also be a reflection of memories for Tony Chapman and his dad, who passed away July 6, 2021.
KEARNEY, WHERE THIS WHOLE THING ENDS SOON — To tell you coach was an old-school dad would be an understatement. Let’s just say you knew who drew the line in our house.
But, he was always quick for a joke and so when I came home from the last track meet I’d ever run in the 8th grade he was quick with a question and even quicker with an answer.
“What’d you run today,” he asked, I think he already knew the answer.
“The 1,200,” I came back. He didn’t hesitate.
“How did they time you? A sun dial?” Miss you dad. Every day.
Before he was gone, he knew he had a granddaughter — now a freshman — who was turning into a runner. He saw a race in seventh grade, Covid washed out the next season. But, my guess is he still watches.
It’s the reason I am in Kearney on Monday. Hotter than Hades. But, we watch and coaches granddaughter finished. In itself, a victory.
I also get to meet the Class D champion Trevor Kuncl and his coach, mom Janie who heads up a small, but mighty Mullen cross country team. She brought four Broncos to Kearney Country Club and went home with three medals.
Trevor has been here a few times. In weather like this or the opposite. But, always with coach.
“Nebraska weather,” Trevor joked. “Hot like this or so cold. I remember a picture we have of mom talking when she brought her team down and I am posing in front holding her clipboard.
“We’d cheer on her team and I scream for my sister, kind of like she does now.”
Coach has those memories, too. The Kuncl’s were at Riverside then, her 2015 team qualifying for the state meet with a daughter on the team.
“Bringing them down here was pretty cool,” the coach admitted. Trevor has the picture to prove it.
In the present, it was a full scream on Monday, when Trevor went into a full sprint to catch Homer’s Grant Lander in 17:09.08 a personal best on the demanding Kearney Country Club course to win the Class D race, a sort of state meet preview.
He’s run the Kearney course seven times now — he finished 80th as a freshman. Last year, 8th and the goal for 2021, a few weeks from now is a top-5 finish.
He laughs about it now, but growing following the great six-man teams at Riverside, Trevor was going to play football in high school. All in. When dad Chris took the principal job in Mullen, those plans changed.
“Getting into high school I was going to do football,” Trevor said. “When we moved to Mullen I told her I was going to do cross country and she was super happy about that.
“She’s been pushing me since I was in second grade doing one mile fun runs and everything.”
But, chat with Trevor and Janie for just a little bit and you realize quickly that it’s not really about the result of the race. There is perspective in the work. In being together. In family.
“I love to run,” the coach says. “And, it’s not even about competing and times it’s about staying healthy and doing something you can do the rest of your life.”
Trevor — all the Kuncl’s really — has earned extra brothers and sisters through coaching and running.
“You know I have learned so much about teamwork, pushing my teammates and them pushing me,” Trevor says, sounding like he might coach some day. “And having the mental state of mind to keep pushing yourself to keep going.
“I’ll have that in my life forever.”
That and the memories of being with coach, because the kid always gets held to a different standard.
“Maybe even too much with him,” Janie admits. “I expect him to always be a leader, but on the weekends to push him to get up and go for a run and not just golf.” (I can see coach winking at us under that tree in Kearney.)
Trevor doesn’t mind.
“I am so happy she got to be my coach.”
I know how you feel and how you’ll love it more when you get older, Trevor. All those memories and lessons, with Coach and Me.
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