By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Jay Yockey sees coaching cross country as more than helping student athletes learn running techniques and skills one season at a time.
“Running is a lifelong sport,” said Yockey. “Cross country is a great race. It’s not always about the fastest time. It’s about grit and determination.”
This fall, Yockey will take over the boys and girls cross country programs at Whiteford. He is a 2006 Blissfield graduate who ran at Adrian College. He is no stranger to Whiteford or the Tri-County Conference. Several of his family members attended Whiteford, his wife Nicole is from Summerfield and he spent several seasons as the Britton Deerfield cross country coach, winning a TCC title in 2012.
“It just seemed like it was meant to be,” Yockey said. “I missed coaching. I definitely wanted to get back to doing it.”
At Blissfield, Yockey ran for longtime Royal coach Al Navarro. At Adrian College he ran for four years and was captain for three of them under coach James Larson. He graduated from Adrian College in 2011 and by fall was named the BD head coach. He was the Daily Telegram’s 2012 Lenawee County Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“I had always wanted to coach cross country,” he said. “I loved coaching at BD. It was a blast.”
Yockey, who competed twice in the Boston Marathon, said he is not opposed to running with the athletes on his teams.
“In my experience, it can be a motivational thing,” he said. “It’s a good time to let them ask questions and just be real with them. Plus, I’m hoping running cross country with the kids will get me back into shape (to run future marathons).”
One of the Boston Marathons he competed in was in 2013 when terrorists killed three and injured hundreds. Yockey was not injured. He returned in 2014, finishing the famed race in 2:53.44.
After coaching BD, Yockey moved to Oregon where he attended Bible School.
“We moved all over the country,” he said.
He came back to southeast Michigan last fall and was hired at Flat Rock Community Schools, coaching seventh-grade social studies. He was hired at Whiteford Agricultural Schools as a history teacher. He started in February and, after less than 20 days in the classroom, the pandemic closed the building.
He and his wife live in Ida and have two children, a daughter, 2, and a son, 8 months old. He said he is excited to get started with the Whiteford cross country program. The Bobcats will host the annual Nick Haynes Memorial Invitational in September at Whiteford Stoneco Community Park in what has become the signature event for the program.
“Whiteford has a really good athletic program across the board,” he said. “I want to add to that.”