“QUADS!” she yelled as she folded her calve behind her thigh.
With her signature blue baseball cap on, Gary-Gribble tank top and Nike Tempos, Amanda Besler looks around at the circle of runners surrounding her. They’re wiping sweat off their foreheads and stretching their quad-muscles. They’re laughing and hanging onto each other for balance. But most of all, they’re following instructions. Her instructions.
This year, East welcomes new cross country coach, Amanda Besler.
For Besler, the 3-year gap between her own college cross country career and her students’ high school career allows her to form a more relatable relationship with the runners.
“I like to believe that I coach by example.” Besler says.
Every day after school, Besler laces up her neon yellow Nike’s and trains with the varsity girls. When head cross country coach Tricia Beaham calls out routes, she stands in the middle of all the girls, listening as intently as they do.
Then, they’re off.
“I didn’t realize how much she makes our run until she was gone one day,” Senior Cathy McAllister said. “Without her, it just wasn’t the same.”
When she was a high school freshman joining cross country, Besler simply saw running as another way to become an in-shape midfielder for her club-soccer team, Kansas City Futbol Club(KCFC). But, after making varsity, she looked at cross country in a different light.
“I had played competitive soccer all my life, Besler said. “And sometime during my junior year I got burned out and decided to focus on running.”
So, senior year of highschool, Amanda quit soccer to hone in on running. From 2003-2007, she ran Varsity at Olathe East High School, where she learned team strategies like running in a pack during races and won State her senior year.
From there, she would walk onto the University of Kansas’s cross country team and eventually earn her scholarship.
Running anywhere from 70-80 miles a week, even practicing twice a day on occasion, she committed herself to the program. She even ran a 16 minute 27 second 5K at an indoor race at KU, a record that is still standing for the university.
“It [was] a grind at times,” Besler said.
Compared to high-school cross country, college running was not just a fall sport. Once the fall season ends, indoor track starts for the winter season and outdoor track in the spring. With her constant travel schedule, KU provided tutors and academic advisors in order for her to stay on top of her schoolwork.
“You don’t live the ‘normal’ college life, but you meet a lot of great friends and get to travel to a lot of cool places along the way.” Besler said.
Three years later, one of those friends she made referred her to the coaches at Shawnee Mission East, where she would apply and soon be hired to coach high school runners.
And now, only one month in, Besler cracks jokes and roughhouses with the runners. Not only with the student athletes, but with the other coaches, too.
“Coach Besler has fit right in,” cross country coach Michael Chaffee said. “She has such an amiable disposition that she gets along with anyone.”
As for the upcoming season, Besler is shooting for both the boys and girls varsity’s to qualify for and contend in state.
But, for now, she can only focus on improving the team’s athleticism…and on learning their 100+ names