Droze Big Bend Coach of the Year

By Jeanne O'Kon

The fall cross-country season is officially over, and it is time to marvel at the accomplishments of some specific local high school runners.

The male and female runners from one of our smaller Tallahassee high schools continue to outperform those of other local and state high schools. In the 1999 fall season, four of the six boys and three of the six girls chosen for the first All-Big Bend Cross Country Team were from this school. Their coach was also honored as the 1999 cross-country Big Bend Coach of the Year.

For the year 2000 season, both the male and female “Runner of the Year” were from this school. Four males and one female were selected for the first All-Big Bend team. Their coach was once more honored as the 2000 boys cross-country Big Bend Coach of the Year.

This recognition is much deserved. During the 2000 cross-country season, runners from this small school performed admirably, winning yet another state title in Division 1A boys competition and finishing second in the girls’ state competition. Both the male and female teams have earned three consecutive state cross-country championships, along with numerous division titles.

Other larger local high schools sometimes have difficulty attracting enough runners to make a complete seven-member cross-country team. But this high school has enough boys participating to field Team A, Team B, and a large junior varsity team. Numerous girls compete for the top seven Team A varsity slots as well.

The Harrier running magazine recently rated this boys’ team as the Top Boys Team in Florida. Rated as the 10th best team in the South region, they earned a national ranking in the Top 50 teams in the entire country. Florida high school cross-country teams from schools of any size have rarely received such an honor.

So, what’s Maclay’s secret?

In two words, it is excellent coaching.

To describe Maclay’s cross-country and track coach Gary Droze as outstanding is an understatement.

First and foremost, he is an excellent runner in his own right. In fact, very few of Tallahassee’s thousands of runners can beat Gary’s 5K and 10K race times. His skill and understanding of the sport and the required training come from firsthand experience. His Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from FSU adds to his extensive knowledge base.

But great coaching is about more than being physically fit and educated.

Gary is wildly successful at combining the roles of taskmaster, motivator, and caring coach all into one. To witness his after-school training sessions with his team is to observe poetry in motion. His runners come to understand that good old-fashioned hard work is the only way to reach such incredible personal and team goals.

Gary diligently monitors individual progress and improvements of all team members. With lots of encouragement, praise, and popsicles, he gets the job done like no one else can.

The fact that these young Maclay runners continue to aspire to such lofty goals and consistently reach them must make other coaches so very envious.

Hard work and dedication of an excellent coach make all the difference. Congratulations to the Maclay cross-country team and to Coach Gary Droze for another excellent year!