When the Westminster Academy boys hoisted the 1A Cross Country Finals trophy it was the first time the team had won state since 1983. On hand for both of the titles was head coach Ken Key. We caught up with him to talk about his team's journey the top of the podium.
These two go hand in hand. We met as a group a couple of days after the state track meet, the second week in May, and evaluated our hopes. We were the youngest team at the state cross country meet in 2015, and finished 5th with three 8th graders. We had improved our state meet finish each of the previous four years. We lost only our #5 to graduation. We knew we had a chance at a podium spot if we could put it together. The guys pledged that a podium position was their great goal, and that they would do whatever it took in the next six months to achieve it. We met together about 4 days per week from May 10 to August 1, mostly just putting in miles, with some tempo training about once a week. For almost 30 years, we have been going to Daytona Beach for a team retreat in early August. This year it was all about getting ready for a run at a trophy in Tallahassee. We adopted one of my favorite sayings for our seasonal challenge: THE PRIZE IS WORTH THE PRICE.
Adam Masterson ran on our teams 20 years ago. He is a pastor and a former Bible teacher, incredibly smart, and insightful. He "rescued" me from some potential mistakes and problems a couple of times. Because he approaches his coaching from the ministry side of things, and because he has a genuine love for the boys that transcends temporary success, he coaches the hearts of our kids, boys and girls. Alan Crate joined us in August, moving over from Boca Raton Christian, where he was very successful with young girls, and he coached Tucker Hindle for 5 years, the 1A boys state champ just last year. He brought incredible energy, enthusiasm, and a very scientific coaching philosophy with him. His sacrifices of time, effort, and energy encouraged me to give more time and energy to my weekends especially. He "ran" our girls workouts, and was especially valuable in "birthing" confidence in our young ladies that brought about success. And his "run every single day without excuse" philosophy got some of our boys to add miles to their normal workout week.
Our parents are our best fans. They have learned to have confidence in what we do. They have known how the sacrifices they make for their children pay off when they are in our hands. They are some of our best "recruiters" (that is within the walls of our school population) as they tell the parents of other potential runners how good our program has been for their family. They pay for our travel and support us in every way, supplying snacks, drinks and helping out. One mom (of 3 of our boys) was our kitchen mom for a week at Daytona, and put together our catered meal at the state meet -- invaluable.
Patrick Sastre is one of top 3 leaders I have had the privilege of coaching in my 44 years at Westminster, and we've had some good ones. His ability to transfer his hunger for success into the hearts and minds of his teammates was phenomenal. He has ALWAYS come through at the biggest moments of a season, and we all knew we could rely on that, and this teammates would try to emulate his drive and his enthusiasm.
It was the unified nature of setting their hearts on a goal. Their vision last spring to see what was possible, their ability to draw every single capable boy on the team into their drive to achieve the podium, their tenacity to never quit striving to achieve in all of those 200 days of goal seeking, They never gave in to doubt that they could get on the podium if they just gave their all.
We will have lost our captain and our number one finisher at state. But we have two juniors who are very capable leaders, and four freshman and an 8th grader who want to continue to improve. They have experienced the thrill, excitement, and fulfillment of the top step....AND THEY WANT VERY BADLY TO RETURN TO THAT TOP STEP. I hope to do this same interview next year. There is plenty of room in our undertrained boys for significant improvement. To Mount Dora Christian Academy, Marathon HIgh School, and to Maclay (see the pattern?) as well as others -- come join us in the battle in 2017.