Coach known for going extra mile for runners

South River teacher sets up training, tends trails, helps with nutrition

November 07, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to the Sun

Patrick Kiley's job is teaching English at South River High School, but his passion is running.

He is also the school's cross-country coach.

Kiley is like many cross-country and track coaches who love the sport. He is a member of the Annapolis Striders running club, and he helps set up and oversee races for high school runners in the area and will do almost anything to help runners - especially on his team - improve.

His love of the sport could explain why he spends time making sure that the cross-country trails at the Edgewater school are lined, cleared and ready for use.

Coaches in this sport often go beyond the call of duty. They set up training programs, give advice and help runners from other teams. There's a spirit of sharing.

Each year before practice starts Aug. 15, Kiley, 32, has to get the school's running path cleared. So he holds a "raking party" the Thursday before. Seahawks team members get together to clear the 3.1-mile path so that they can practice on it with ease.

Cross-country and track-and- field coaches often keep an eye on their runners year-round, because they can't just show up one day and say they want to compete. That is why coaches must have a feel for what their runners are doing and why they need to come up with different ways to keep them going.

"Distance running is a year-round sport," Kiley said. "You can't just pick it up from Aug. 15 until the state meet in November. You have to be logging those miles throughout the year."

Kiley encourages his team members to run. He uses different tactics so that everyone knows what he or she should do between seasons.

Under Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules, Kiley is not permitted to "officially" coach the runners between seasons.

At the end of school in the spring, Kiley held a meeting with his runners to give them his simple "3-4-5" plan for summer conditioning, which is aimed at those who haven't trained during previous summers.

His suggestion was that they run three miles three times a week in June, four miles four times a week in July and five miles five times a week in the first two weeks of August.

That helps them start practice Aug. 15 in better shape, he said.

Kiley also teams with the Annapolis Striders to hold a race as part of the group's Summer Fun Run series. He e-mailed all of the other Anne Arundel high school coaches so that they could inform their runners. The result was that 50 runners competed in this summer's race.

"This way, all of the high school kids have a chance to get in some competitive racing before the season starts," Kiley said.

South River Principal William Myers is a big supporter of Kiley's efforts.

Myers, who is the Annapolis Striders' vice president and tries to run 25 to 30 miles a week, said he understands that running coaches have many things to worry about.

"How do you coach a large number of kids and be sure to give them all an individual program and help them [improve]?" Myers said. "Everybody's different. You have to be able to assess the student and the person. You have to give them a [plan that] won't break them down or blow them up."

Kiley has an assistant coach, Charlene Wirfel, who works with the runners on nutrition and eating right.

"It's hard to find certified coaches," Myers said. "Lots of people know a lot about running, but finding coaches who've been certified through coursework to coach the sport is hard."

John Curley is on the board of directors of the Striders and also knows what being a coach involves.

Curley said that to set up a race, trails need to be lined and cleared if they are on grass, and cones must be placed if the running is on streets.

"It takes a lot of time," Curley said. "There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do."

That is why Kiley likes things such as the "raking party." It's the best way to reach out to kids in different ways.

After school ends in June, a number of clubs in the area get together to practice and compete.

The raking party is well attended by South River runners and often gets rave reviews at the school.

"We really try to make that a team effort," Kiley said. "It's not mandatory, but we rake everything that I've clipped over the summer - bushes and leaves and stuff. Then, we all go to Rita's."

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