For the past 13 years, head track coach and world geography teacher Brie Meschke has spent the better part of March, April and May with the same assistant coaches. They have become friends through the countless hours they have spent together at KU Relays and seven hour JV Track meets. But for Meschke, her time as head coach is ending and leaving alongside her are two other long tenured coaches — Chuck Seawood and Tricia Beaham.
It was the weekend of the KU Relays when Meschke decided. She had gone two straight days without seeing her five-year-old son, Charlie and 10-month-old daughter, Ruby. She was swamped with emails from parents and athletes so driving home from Lawrence Meschke decided that she was done.
“Being a head coach is extremely rewarding but it’s also very stressful,” Meschke said. “When you have young kids, you just have to weigh the good and the bad. And I would say this year there were some parents and just issues that were stressful and I felt like it made more sense for me to spend time with my family than to deal with those issues.”
Sophomore Hannah Arnspiger understands why her coaches are leaving to be with their families, but still finds it hard to say goodbye.
“[The coaches] are so awesome because they take the time to really get to know the person and not just be their coach, but be their friend and their supporter,” Arnspiger said. “I’m so happy I was able to have them as a coach.”
Spending time with her family is what is important to Meschke right now. Her husband knows how important coaching is to her, but is also aware of the extra responsibilities that come with the spring sports season.
“My husband is thrilled that I’m leaving track,” Meschke said. “He’s also worried because he knows how much I love it and that I’m going to miss it and it’s been just an awesome outlet for me. But he has to take on a lot more responsibility during track season. We have to have a lot of babysitters and be super organized and that’s something we’re not going to have to worry about anymore.”
Coach Beaham is in a similar situation. As the assistant distance coach with Michael Chaffee and head cross country coach in the fall, Beaham is deciding to take the spring to spend more time with her family.
Beaham has been coaching track with Meschke and the other assistan
t coaches for 13 years. But when her husband passed away in October of 2011, track became harder to balance with three kids and a home to run.
“Before David passed away, it was something that we played great tag team together and I just don’t want to miss any of my children’s activities,” Beaham said. “My own parents and my in-laws would always step in, but now since they’re getting older they’re not able to provide as much transportation services as they used to, so it’s pretty much me.”
Beaham decided to make this season experimental, to test whether she could handle all the responsibilities of track and family. Fortunately, she says, it hasn’t been too much of a strain to handle both sides. But the time c
ommitment of a six to seven hour track meet two times a week can take its tole.
“I don’t want to neglect my homefront and I feel kind of like I’m not giving a hundred percent of myself on both sides,” Beaham said. “So I decided that I’m going to take one season off my plate so I can at least enjoy those kids in the fall.”
For Beaham, cross country has always been her favorite sport to coach; she likes the fact that it is a unique experience. Everyone starts together and finishes in the same place and it is the race in between that prevails. It is also less of a time commitment, being one Saturday morning compared to multiple track meets a week.
“With cross country there’s such a part of it that’s the fall, the smells, the nostalgia, the kids, the family,” Beaham said. “Everybody has a common goal that they have to go after. They just want to get the best time they can and they know that if they run their best race, the team will do better, so it’s more cohesive.”
Beaham doesn’t see herself resigning from cross country, but both she and Meschke will miss the track team.
“I will miss watching kids succeed and reaching a goal that they’ve had and following through with that goal,” Meschke said. “I think it’s different in the classroom than it is in athletics.”
With four track positions opening up, Athletic Director Sam Brown has already started the process of finding a new head coach. The process, he says, started with posting a head coach position for five days. They are currently interviewing potential candidates and hope to have one chosen before the end of the school year. Once hired, the head coach will interview current assistant coaches to see if they would lik
e to stay on board with the program and then fill the other positions with people who aren’t already affiliated.
“The hard part about it is that it’s difficult to find someone that’s in the building,” Brown said. “Coaches are used to putting in a lot of time and effort and when the coaches aren’t in the building, especially head coaches, we run into problems. We always look in the building first, then the district, and then we look outside the district.”
For now, both Beaham and Meschke aren’t planning on coming back to coach track anytime soon. Although they will both miss track, the kids and their fellow coaches, they know it’s time to move on.
“Your kids, as everybody says, grow up fast and they’re gone before you know it,” Beaham said. “Knowing that life is short and family is the most important and the love you have for them, though you consider the track team and the coaches as part of your extended family, your children come first.”