BEAUFORT—It didn’t take long for St. Peter School’s cross-country program to find its stride and outdistance their more experienced competition.
In only its second year, the boys raced to an undefeated season and the girls followed close behind with victories in all but one meet, said Father Timothy D. Tebalt.
Father Tebalt, pastor of St. Peter Church, volunteered to take over coaching duties a few weeks into the school year and said it ended up being a lot of fun.
“It took up a lot of time, but I did enjoy it,” he said. He added that some of the teachers pitched in to help when needed.
The priest is a runner himself, and said he gained experience training others when he served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He compared his position to that of a sergeant, which came in handy with a large group of teenagers.
“I made them run a lot, and I made them do pushups when they weren’t paying attention, so they started paying attention after awhile,” he said with a laugh.
The team consisted of 14 girls and 12 boys. Father Tebalt said the meets are co-ed, but the girls and boys are scored separately.
Their top runner was Prescott Hendrick, an eighth-grader who finished first overall.
When the season started, the priest/coach said he didn’t have high expectations. Not only was he new to coaching, but most of the runners were new to cross-country too.
St. Peter has basketball and soccer teams, Father Tebalt said, but cross-country has been an intermittent program as the school searched for a permanent coach.
They had a small group of runners and an interim coach last year, but the program really took off this season. Still, Father Tebalt said he and the students were surprised by how well they did.
After taking first place in their first race, the runners were jumping up and down with excitement, and one of the boys commented on how unbelievable it was that they had won. That excitement never faded even as they continued to win.
Regardless of the outcome, though, Father Tebalt said one of the most important lessons from sports is learning to stick with something.
Tom Collins, whose daughter Mia is on the team, told Father Tebalt how impressed he was by the level of sportsmanship and camaraderie at the track events, not only by St. Peter, but the other schools also.
The priest said it was wonderful to see such positive attitudes and mutual encouragement from the athletes.
Father Tebalt said he only runs for exercise and relaxation now, but occasionally laced up his sneakers to train with the team. He said he was faster than some of the students, but not all.
One of their favorite exercises was a 2.5 mile run in the pouring rain.
“I led them on that, and being kids, they loved it,” he said
Father Tebalt said he’s been breathing easier since the season ended, but is looking forward to coaching again next year.