The running community lost one of the great ones on Saturday. Longtime Estero coach Jeff Sommer passed away after suffering an apparent heart attack at the 3A State Finals, collapsing just moments before his girls 4x800m relay team finished victorious. I was trackside and just finished interviewing the quartet. The group was ecstatic having just knocked off favorite Miami Northwestern. In four years, the 4x800 team had finished second, first, second, and then first again in 2015. Moments later, I had heard that Coach Sommer collapsed, but no reasoning, followed by parents huddled around in their orange shirts that read, "there is always that one SOMMER that changes you." Little did anyone know the news that was about to come to fruition. The beloved coach had passed away.
He was more than just a coach. He was a role model for countless athletes, a mentor, a leader who demanded the best from his group, and received it. He was passionate about the kids and expected nothing less than 110 percent out of them. I remember one time while doing a preview he told me this.
"I love both of my teams very much and I love coaching, but we have to learn how to hurt more and step up to the plate when it matters."
His cross country teams won eight state titles and he coached numerous state champions in both cross country and track. Sommer camp as they called it wasn't simply running miles, there were tire flips, sled pulls, and more. After the girls 4x800m relay ran a nation leading time at FSU Relays in late March I said all they needed was the war paint.
I also recall not giving his team as much love as I should have before a meet. He let me hear about it and I never made that mistake again. You never counted out an Estero team. No matter the talent level, the heart was always more than the competition. That's because Coach Sommer instilled in them the 3 D's; discipline, desire, and determination
He was a true supporter of the site as well. Everything we did for the kids resonated with him, because well, he did the same and so much more.
"Todd, I want you to know you are one of a kind. I can't thank you enough for all you have done for my program and my kids. You are the man."
Coach, we can't thank you enough for all you've done. You were the epitome of what the perfect coach is. As much as you said you were lucky to be able to coach the kids you coached, and that they made a big impact on you, they were lucky to have been coached by you and your impact on their life. You commanded respect and we're a true winner; the kind of person when my son grows up that i can only hope he has a coach like. I usually always talked to you before or after meets and Saturday, I didn't get that chance.
The out pouring of love is all over our message boards, the running community, and Estero High School. You never know when it's your time to go and you were definitely taken way too soon, but I do know that now heaven has the best coach in the whole world and that you'll be looking down and rooting from up above.
Thoughts and prayers go out to all those that were touched by Coach Sommer; the athletes, friends, and family. You'll forever be remembered Coach Sommer!
A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM in the Auditorium of Estero High School, 21900 River Ranch Road, Estero. The family will receive friends at the school after 9;00 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the Jeff Sommer Scholarship Fund, c/o Estero High School, 21900 River Ranch Road, Estero, FL 33928.
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- In this series we take a look at state championship and runner-up coaches, their outlook on the team, the season, and 2014. Coach Jeff Sommer has been at Estero since it has opened and has been coaching girls for cross country the last ten years. This year the Wildcats picked up their fourth consecutive state championship cementing themselves as one of the most dominant programs in the state. - 2013-11-29 13:41:00
- Flrunners is reaching out to interview and recognize all of the head coaches from the victorious cross country state championship teams to give them the opportunity to reflect and share their feelings and thoughts on their team's successful fall seasons culminating with state team titles. Coach Sommer has helped Estero become of the best girls teams in the state year in and year out. The Wildcats recently won their third state title in three years. - 2012-12-04 18:16:00
- After winning championships at last weekend's state meet, four coaches ascended higher on the all-time winning most coaches list maintained by former FACA XC Chair and Spanish River coach Rick Rothman. - 2011-11-23 11:14:00