New Homestead girls cross country coach Victor Vilar knew he would have to step lightly in taking over for the late and well-loved and admired Andy Edington, whose athletes revered him and of whom opposing coaches had the utmost respect.
Further, he knew he would get a late start with the team, as his impending marriage caused him to miss the first week of practice.
But as youth pastor at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon, he trusted that people would have faith in him and his capabilities and that he would get help when needed.
That's how he and Activities Director Charlie Gross were able to enlist the aid of Homestead cross country hall-of-famer, long-time Edington friend and current Sussex Hamilton Coach Andy Bosley for that first week of practice when Vilar was on his honeymoon.
"We were very appreciative of Andy coming back and helping us, especially while he was also coaching his own team," Gross said. "He obviously knows our culture and what we expect."
It was just the kind of help and generosity that Vilar will lend to his veteran team this fall as it attempts to build on its ninth-place WIAA State Meet showing of 2008.
Skills help with coping
Vilar also knows that on occasion, he will also have to use his pastoral skills to help the team deal with the still lingering emotional fallout from the loss of Edington, who collapsed and died while on a training run with the girls track team last spring.
"I really didn't want to jump into this too quickly because some people suggested that this would be a very tough situation," said Vilar, a former runner himself out of the storied Menomonee Falls program. "I knew I would need a lot of help and prayer in order to do this right, but I decided to go for it.
"I've spoken to the girls, and I've learned what a great man he (Edington) was and how much he meant to them. I'm going to try and help them keep moving forward. ... I'm going to give them the opportunity to run for him. It's a difficult time and a difficult situation, but we know that they're where they are (in terms of their running) because of Edington's planning."
Gross has been impressed by the emotional strength and honesty that Vilar has shown so far.
"Our first choice in a situation like this would have been a teacher in the building," he said, "but in lieu of that, the second best would be someone who has experience with youth like he does at Crossroads. He works with kids (teens) on a daily basis out there.
"To be able to speak with them with the sensitivity and professionalism that's required in that situation gave me a lot of confidence that he can function well in this unique setting."
Building on success
The results have been encouraging so far, as the Highlanders turned in a dominating performance at the Rotary Park Challenge in Menomonee Falls on Aug. 27.
Even veteran Highlanders boys coach Dan Claussen was impressed.
"This is one of the most focused groups that I've ever seen at Homestead," he said. "They did a phenomenal job."
And they want to build on it, said Vilar.
"This is a team that has very high goals," he said. "They were top eight at state last season, and they want to move even higher this season. They feel they can be right at the top at the end.
"What happened the other day (at Rotary) was a good first step."
In more ways than one.
New look, same results
Veteran Highlanders do well at Rotary Park meet
Freshmen/Sophomore race highlights (4,000 meters): Lauren Holtz, second (15:20); Alex Holtz, 15th (17:38); 122 total runners
Junior/Senior race highlights (4,000 meters): Sarah Miller, fourth (15:33); Caity Bobber, ninth (15:48); Kelsey Boyle, 13th (16:06, PR); Carrie Rice, 14th (16:11); Keali Bjork, 15th (16:15); Andrea Dolsky, 21st (16:25); Abby Kanyer, 22nd (16:30); Katie Smigelski, 24th (16:37); and Dana Griepentrog, 25th (16:37); 145 total runners
Meet note: If the event had been scored on a combined basis, Homestead would have beaten state power Waukesha West.
Team captains: Kanyer, Miller and Natalie Porter
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