Tonight, I interrupt the Wheels of Fire series — a look at one mundane high-school cross-country season through the running log of one mundane freshman — for a pretty cool bit of news from last week.
Penfield High School cross-country coach Dave Hennessey — he’s the adult at far right of the Wheels of Fire logo/picture — last week recorded his 900th win at a boys’ or girls’ meet. (It was the girls’ team that scored the milestone win, apparently.)
Even before the big win, Coach Hennessey already ranked as the nation’s all-time leader in cross-country coaching victories, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Coach Henn, as he is generally known, had already been at Penfield for a dozen years when the above picture was taken in 1987.
Not only is he still there, but the years seem to have gifted him with some talented teams. Or perhaps they are just more focused and less goofy than the teams I ran on. Whatever the case, on the rare occasions when I see cross-country results in the D&C, Penfield teams usually seem to contend pretty well.
Penfield High is not one of those dynastic schools you read about that racks up 10 state championships in a row. But they seem to be consistently competitive — a pattern that started sometime after I graduated.
With typical modesty, Coach Henn credited his win total to “the kids” who “took forth a lot of great effort.”
As one of those kids, I hereby take credit for my lot of great effort. I guesstimate that I contributed, as one of the top six varsity runners, to perhaps a half-dozen of Coach Hennessey’s league-meet wins.
I had no idea I was making history at the time; I was just trying not to puke.
But seriously: Congratulations to Coach Henn for his skill, endurance, patience and commitment.
And a hat tip, too, to all those kids since 1975 — the jocks, the goofballs, the nerds, the misfits — whom he taught to run to win, and who found a place for themselves in the world of high school cross-country.
Hopefully Coach Henn has it in him to indoctrinate at least a few more classes into that group before he decides he’s set up enough chutes and spray-painted enough roots for one lifetime.