Trial delayed: Going the extra mile is Paul Hoover’s legacy

David Yon, May 11, 2021

I peeked ahead on my calendar and found an entry for May 17 that says: “Paul Hoover Trial Begins.” It turns out the trial has been pushed back – again. This time to Aug. 2, 2021. The wheels of justice are grinding much slower than Paul Hoover ran even on a bad day.

It is yet another devastating delay for the Hoover family. This time it is a discovery delay – witnesses are vacationing.

It happened so fast – in the blink of an eye. We may never know all the details of what happened on May 23, 2017. However, we are certain that Jarvis Strickland blasted over a hill on Springhill Road in his Toyota Camry driving at extreme speeds before plowing into Paul Hoover at a speed of 89 miles per hour ending his life at the age of 66. It was way too short of a life for a law enforcement officer, runner, coach and more who gave so much to his community, his family and his athletes.

On May 23, 2017 Paul’s life unexpectedly ended. It happened, as it can to any of us, in a flicker of time. One moment he was doing something he loved – running a trail in the forest possibly trying to find the right words or workout to get one of his runners “over the hump,” and the next moment Wakulla High School needed a new coach.

No matter how much we want to undo the tragedy and no matter how much we want to understand why it happened, neither has or will happen.

But we can hope for some sense of justice and closure for friends and family. It took a little more than one year to arrest Strickland. He is in jail unable to post a bond of $250,000. Hopefully, this will be the last delay. He has been charged with manslaughter and hit-and-run involving a death.

He was arrested on June 12, 2018. And while the arrest (and jailing) brought a sense of relief and closure to family and close friends those feelings began to evaporate as time passed at turtle pace. One year became two, then two became three and three will become four on May 23, 2021. Trial dates get set and then continued.

Paul always had this straight-ahead approach to life. Commit yourself to whatever it is you are doing, learn as much as you can about it, and then work hard to be your best at it.

That meant never accepting less than your best, but it also meant that if you gave your best, then accept the results with grace and dignity. He often told the kids he coached – “Go the extra mile – It is never crowded.”

Paul knew success most of his life. His love for the outdoors made him a great steward and benefited all of us. In 1977, Paul Hoover was recognized as Florida’s Wildlife Officer of the Year. It was the beginning of a career that personified excellence, commitment to duty, character, productivity, good judgment, and most of all, leadership. In 1979, he was promoted to Leon County, where he served with distinction as Sergeant and Lieutenant over a four-county area.

After retiring from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, he received the Guy Bradley Award for Outstanding Leadership and Professional Excellence. He was the GWTC Runner of the Year in 1993 and together with Myrna (his wife), was selected to receive the GWTC Cleveland Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award.

He was posthumously inducted to the GWTC Hall of Fame in 2019. He also was inducted into the Law Enforcement Hall of Fame in 2019.

But none of that is what really made Paul so special.

Many years ago, Myrna convinced Paul he should take on the coaching job at Wakulla High School. Paul started in 2006, as I recall, mostly to help the coach at the time David Price, who was losing a fierce battle to ALS (Lou Gehrig disease.) David’s son, Tyler, was on that team.

The way Paul dealt with the challenges that year, might just be the best job of coaching he ever did and a great example of why the kids who ran for him loved him so much. When David Price lost his battle in November of 2007, he had watched Paul guide Tyler to one of the best seasons in Wakulla High School history, including a Chenoweth Cross Country Athlete of the Year Award.

Paul brought something special to the coaching profession and since that day hundreds of high school athletes learned many valuable lessons about how to tackle life’s challenges while training to be distance runners. Many became very good runners; all of them became better human beings.

Paul Hoover had a wonderful way of interacting with people that made him the perfect high school distance running coach. Those who knew him, knew you could trust what he said completely, with one exception. When he started telling you it really wasn’t him, the easy thing was to nod and say “sure.”

But we all knew it was him and he had an almost magical way of making us feel better and more willing to go that extra mile to make this world a better place.

Paul Hoover’s legacy is found in the impact he had as a coach on young men and women’s lives. He taught them how to compete well, but more importantly he taught them to be great people.

It is grossly unfair he is gone, but I know what he would say if he had the chance. We best start that extra mile today.