Veteran coach leads team of newcomers for GHS cross country

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Sep. 24, 2012
(L-r) Top freshman runners Anthony Cusimano and Trevor Frizzell run for Griswold at the Windham Invitational. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
(L-r) Top freshman runners Anthony Cusimano and Trevor Frizzell run for Griswold at the Windham Invitational. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Virtually all the faces are new on the Griswold High School boys’ cross-country team this year, but the man at the helm is no stranger to the program. Veteran coach Gerry Chester came out of a four-year retirement to lead the Wolverines this season, and he’s got a sizeable team of newcomers.

“We have 13 runners – that’s probably the largest number we’ve had in 15 years,” he said. “Cross-country is notoriously small.” It’s a common problem that all high school programs struggle with, he said, but the challenge of running a 3-mile course deserves admiration, no matter the program’s size. “These kids work awfully hard. I don’t care what school they go to,” he said.

Three of his runners are returning from last year: the sole senior, Beau Houatchanthara, and two sophomores, Kyle Davis and Lucas Medling. Not surprisingly, these are the squad’s top three men, Chester said. Brandon Kinnie, the only junior, is new to the sport this year. Chester said he never chooses a team captain.

The rest of the team consists of seven freshmen and four sophomores. “I know a couple of freshmen were interested, and they started recruiting themselves,” said Chester. “It was like peer pressure.” With the largest group of freshmen the school has ever seen, the cross-country team is able to field a respectable squad for freshman races at invitational meets, he said.

“When you’re coaching freshmen, you have to show a lot of patience,” Chester said. “They’re new to high school; they can be wandering around aimlessly. You have to keep them on the path. We’re slowly getting there. The sophomores are coming along, too.”

Chester has the experience to make that judgment. He’s in his 34th year of coaching the sport, starting at St. Bernard in 1970 and moving to Ellis Tech, where he was teaching at the time. He coached at Griswold from 1999 through 2008, when he left coaching to follow the college cross-country career of his son, Erik Chester, who competed for Seton Hall University.

“I think this team is a year away from doing anything,” he said. “This year it’s growth by inches, but we’ll take that and see what happens.”

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