Two longtime Montgomery County cross country coaches retired from the sport after
Saturday's DC-MD Private Schools State Championship. Gary Wyatt is walking away after his St. Andrew's Episcopal girls team won its third consecutive
state title in the small schools classification, and Tom Arnold of Good Counsel High School announced his retirement after his boys team came up short
in its quest for a fourth consecutive state title.
Arnold is a coaching legend in this region. For three decades he commanded respect from his opponents and the media because his teams were always at or
near the top of the standings within the WCAC, at major invitationals and other championship meets. He is universally loved by athletes who have
competed under him - at least those athletes who made it through the program without quitting or getting booted off the team. Athletes always describe
him as disciplined yet hilarious, brash and caring all at the same time. After 30 years at Good Counsel High School plus four previous years at Chapel
Hill High School, Arnold decided it was time to walk away.
"I've thought about it, about retiring, for the last few years," said Arnold. "Last year probably a third of the way through the season, I made the
decision that last year was going to be my last. My athletic director laughed at me when I said that because he didn't think I'd ever retire. Some
people think I'm just going to die on the cross country course which I had kind of thought I might do one day. By the end of the season I had changed my
mind and thought I'd stick around for one more year this year. It felt like the time was right."
He said that he planned to tell his runners in a team meeting back at the school on Monday, but while he was thanking seniors in a grassy spot after the
awards ceremony on Saturday, he decided to make his announcement. The news surely dropped like a bombshell, but he said that he never wanted to make the
season or any internal or external attention about him. He assured everyone that he is healthy and happy and he will continue working for Good Counsel
High School as the Dean of Students and chemistry teacher. The decision on his coaching successor will be entirely up to the Athletic Department at Good
Compared to Arnold, Gary Wyatt received far less media attention during his 36 consecutive years
of coaching cross country at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, but it seems like he prefers it that way.
"I was trying to get out of here without all this," Wyatt said shortly after meet director Ted Findler acknowledged Wyatt's retirement in front of
everyone at the awards ceremony.
It was the path he chose by starting a cross country program from nothing at a tiny private
school without a track in 1981. He was a young man and a strong athlete: a 4:11 and 9:11 high school miler/two miler at TC Williams High School and a
firsthand witness to the racial integration depicted in the movie "Remember the Titans." After collegiate performances of 3:49 1500m, 8:54 steeple, and
14:53 5k, he landed a teaching gig at tiny St. Andrew's Episcopal School. In the same year that "Chariots of Fire" was released, Wyatt got St. Andrew's
running with a new coed cross country team (boys and girls were then scored together as a single team).
The program experienced early success, first in the PVAC where the Lions won four consecutive titles in the mid-80's. Recently, the St. Andrew's girls
team won nine out of the last thirteen small schools state titles including its third straight on Saturday. But probably his fondest memory was winning
the ISL title in 2005 against schools three times larger.
Wyatt is retiring from both coaching and teaching.
"It's time to move on after 36 years," he said. "My sister has been the assistant coach. She is actually taking over. And then Yaa Warren who ran for me
- she was on the '05 team - she's taking over also. So it's in good hands."
Montgomery County private schools took the top three positions in the boys small schools classification with St. Andrew's taking third, Jewish Day
School taking second, and The Heights School taking home the small schools state title.
Jewish Day School believed that they would be in the hunt for the title and were disappointed to come up short.
"Huge credit to the Heights," said JDS Head Coach Jason Belinkie. "They ran an amazing race. They're clearly peaking at the right time."
Belinkie said that the race was already in place for The Heights through the first mile, and even if all of his runners had great races, The Heights was
just too solid. JDS will return five of its top six next year.
The Heights School coach Justin Meyers said that all of his runners had perfect races and set PR's on a pretty challenging course. In addition to
running for PR's, the Heights in red was picking out JDS in blue in a true tactical team race.
"We knew that Jewish Day School is very good this year," said Meyers. "...We had the guys that they knew that they had to beat and all of our guys more
or less were able to do what they were supposed to."
MAC champion Luke Armbruster from St. Andrew's School may have been vying for the small schools individual title, but by all accounts he ran sick.
William Jones of St. Maria Goretti won the small schools classification in 15:58 while Dalton Hengst of McDonogh won the overall race in 15:29.
Page Lester of National Cathedral School won the girls title in 17:59 which was announced as a meet and course record during the awards ceremony.
A Meet in Flux
No governing body unifies the private schools in Maryland or the District of Columbia. The DC-MD Private Schools State Championship Meet has always been
a state championship in name only, with one school taking up most of the organizing responsibilities, much like any in-season invitational meet. The
meet is usually poorly attended by Baltimore area private schools in the MIAA and IAAM. Now schools from Washington DC are starting to back out in favor
of the DCSAA Cross Country Championships.
Gonzaga and Georgetown Visitation School already stopped attending the DC-MD state meet. The future of the DC-MD Private Schools State Championship Meet
is especially uncertain after National Cathedral School and St. Albans School announced that in 2017 they would neither attend nor organize the meet as
they had since 2008.
"We're going to make the DC state meet our state meet," said longtime meet organizer Ted Findler of St. Albans and NCS.
"That fills our need for a state meet. We ran three championship meets in a row this season and that didn't seem to work well from a team standpoint. I
think other DC schools are feeling the same way...With the rise of the DC state meet the last couple years, it seems like this meet has evolved to the
point where it should probably be just a Maryland private schools championship and not so much Maryland-DC."
That was just Findler's opinion and there are likely many differing opinions about the future of the meet. What is clear is that DC schools are slowly
but surely pulling out, Baltimore area schools for the most part never bought in, and National Cathedral School set down the proverbial torch which no
one has yet picked up. Several coaches named Landon's Addison Hunt as the likely leader to drive the conversation about the future of the meet.
Sunday, November 13, 2016 11:23:50 AM
God bless Tom Arnold. Even after only spending a week with him each year at Concord, his impact to runners was felt by everybody. Great man and great career.
Sunday, November 13, 2016 12:45:24 PM
I think Coach Arnold deserves a lot of respect and praise for his time coaching in the county. His teams' accomplishments speak for themselves with all the WCAC titles and invitational wins. Having attended Concord XC camp, I learned a lot from Coach Arnold about running, but the main thing he preaches is hard work. HIs team works harder than any other team in the state of Maryland and they tend to run with more discipline and heart. I appreciated how he was always friendly and truly cared about the success of all runners, not those just on his team. This season was a great way for him to end his career taking a team with only 2 returners from last years star-studded team, reloading to win WCACs. A big thanks to Coach Arnold from all moco runners for teaching us the evils of soda.
Run @ Concord
Sunday, November 13, 2016 11:04:14 PM
I can't thank Coach Arnold enough for all that he's done for me just within a week at Concord. His dedication to making every push themselves and to put in the work needed to succeed is inspiring and I can say has inspired me to be where I am today as a runner. Sad to see him go but happy to know that he has gotten the recognition he deserves.
Sunday, November 13, 2016 11:39:46 PM
Arnold is tough but hilarious,a coaching legend. It will be tough to see him stop coaching, I hope it works out for him and the entire Good Counsel team. Will he still coach camp? Or at least come as a guest speaker as his diet talk was always a camp favorite.
Monday, November 14, 2016 05:45:26 PM
Ay @octagon did you know the quinoa is a superfood
Gluten Free Kyle
Monday, November 14, 2016 06:48:40 PM
coach arnold bullied me
Tuesday, November 15, 2016 04:11:54 PM
It's sad to see you go Coach, thanks for everything.