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Sports commentary: Good sports

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Bedford county cross country coaches show how it's done

By Mike Forster

 

The Word of the Day which popped up is "Dichotomy." 

A dichotomy is a division of something into two mutually exclusive classifications.

In this case, the dichotomy exists in my mind and it has to do with long-distance running.

On the one hand, I've never been fond of that activity.  Whether it was during high school football or in the Army, the idea of running very far seemed senseless and cruel.

On the other hand, I've found covering cross country to be one of the most pleasant duties of this very pleasant job which I hold.

One of the main reasons I'm so enamored of the sport is because of the people associated with cross country.  In the past, I've written columns on just how pleasant and supportive are the athletes who race each other over hill and dale.

They are among the most dedicated young people I've encountered, yet that devotion rarely translates into anything but camaraderie among the participants.

In fact, I've advised friends of mine, should their high schoolers feel adrift and aimless, they could probably do no greater service than pointing them in the direction of cross country tryouts.  The kids are that solid and decent.

It turns out, however, that my praise of the sport has been falling somewhat short of the mark.  I've discovered that it just may well be that these tremendous traits begin with the coaches.

Allow me to share.

Last week, I swung by the Conference 30 race.  This unit consists of Liberty, Brookville, Heritage, Rustburg and Tunstall.

Who should I find at the starting line, getting things going?  Well, none other than Jerome Loy, of Jefferson Forest.

And who did I run into at the finish line?  Why, it was Joe Curcio, from Staunton River.

Wait a minute.  Conference 30 most certainly does not include Jefferson Forest and Staunton River.

Yet, here were these two men, helping to make sure the Conference 30 meet ran without a hitch.  Which, by the way, it did.

Loy is one of the most successful coaches in the state.  During his  career at Jeff Forest, he has guided six teams to State championships in (indoor and outdoor) track and cross country.

Right now, he's got a great shot at leading his girls team to a State trophy.

Curcio is perhaps the most sought-after coach in all of Virginia.  He has personally run numerous State meets, as well as regional and district meets galore.

Curcio is so highly regarded, they've even named an outdoor track meet in his honor.

I have to admit:  I've got a soft spot for these two guys.

As I started this gig many years ago in the autumn, I naturally crossed paths with them early in this stint.

I first met Curcio as he rode in a golf cart behind some of his runners, urging them on.  Only later did I realize he'd go under the knife for double knee replacement surgery.  That didn't stop him from coaching.

I met Loy when he had me jump in the back of his pickup truck during one of the races he hosted.  Not knowing if this was some practical joke where the new sports guy wound up in some no-man's land, I didn't know what to expect, until he dropped me off at a spot that was perfect for a photo.

They are the types who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of your kids.  The support of their schools is staunch:  I'm hard pressed to think of a football game at either school where those coaches weren't present.

That support obviously extends beyond just their schools.  Witness the assistance they lent Kelly Jennings, the Liberty coach who was hosting the Conference 30 meet at Falling Creek Park.

It should be noted that Jennings is doing a superb job at Liberty, building up a program in a school that seems to lack a cross country culture.

She also has no assistant coaches.  Loy and Curcio are both USATF and VHSL certified to run meets.

"They're Bedford County, so we're pals," said Loy.  "We're all friends." 

Added Curcio, "We're here to promote the sport."

An obviously grateful Jennings said, "These nice guys have come to help."

And why would that happen?

Loy shrugged and said, "There's something about this sport."

Indeed.  It's enough to make you take up running.