Lee named Warwick cross country coach

By on June 24, 2015


New Warwick cross country coach Terry Lee

New Warwick cross country coach Terry Lee

Terry Lee’s career numbers speak for themselves.

In 29 years as a cross country coach and 36 years as a track coach, Lee’s teams have captured six District Three crowns and qualified for 15 PIAA State Championship competitions.

Impressive stuff, for sure.

Just don’t ask him to speak about any of it.

“A successful season could be 0-21,” Lee said. “… I try to come up with a definition of success and it’s not a win-loss thing. That enhances the season, but undefeated seasons are not my most joyful unless they were achieved through common effort and through the satisfaction of performance of every kid in that lineup.”

An 11-time Lancaster-Lebanon League Coach of the Year honoree, Lee will now bring that approach to Warwick’s cross country squad. He was hired by the school board at its meeting last Tuesday, June 16 as the Warriors’ new head coach, replacing Jenny Sassaman, who stepped down in April.

“I can’t wait to wear red,” Lee said. “I don’t have much red, but I can’t wait.”

That is not a slap at Manheim Township, where Lee guided the Blue Streaks’ cross country teams for 22 years and still coaches track, but instead a statement of the reception that he has gotten from the Warwick personnel he’s encountered so far.

“Every time I’ve left an interaction, whether it’s the district office or the AD’s office, I’ve felt excellent,” Lee said.

As much as he hated to leave the interactions that he was enjoying with Township’s cross country runners, Lee did so following the fall of 2013. His workload as a teacher in the Manheim Township School District had increased with the addition of a couple of new courses, and he felt like it was the right thing to do for the program to step away.

“I decided I wasn’t giving enough attention to what I had such a passion to do,” Lee recalled. “As a head coach, I wasn’t feeling like I was giving the right time to it. It was still a passion, but it was not a perfect situation.”

When Lee knew that he’d be retiring at the end of the 2014-15 school year, his thoughts turned to getting back involved with coaching cross country.

Before he got very far, however, Lee had to recruit someone to help him update his resume.

“It had been so long,” Lee chuckled. “When I saw (the Warwick position) appear in the newspaper, I jumped at it.”

Warwick, too, jumped at the chance to interview the highly-regarded coach. One thing led to another and Lee was offered the job. He inherits a Warrior program that combined for 25 wins between the boys and girls squads this past fall.

In fact, Sassaman’s record in four seasons at the helm was 119-49 with the WHS boys and girls.

The rich history of Warwick cross country is just one reason why Lee finds the job so appealing.

“It’s a new opportunity for me,” he said. “I like the idea that it was Warwick and I recognize that they have a strong athletic structure. I know a lot of the names from the past. So that made it more attractive. After the interview, I was feeling better and better because I enjoyed the interview that occurred, I enjoyed the contacts that were being made. And in the meantime, I looked at the property over there and I’m thinking, ‘Oh wow, that’s paradise.’ Long continuous areas without interruption. They always have large numbers of students. Let’s just say the more contact I had with with Warwick personnel and examination of the roster, I became even more excited. It went beyond my initial, ‘I want to do this again,’ and turned into a thankfulness that it’s Warwick.”

Of course, there will come a time when Warwick competes against the Blue Streak runners who are so familiar to Lee. That occasion is already something he’s been pondering.

“It’s a little more casual in cross country than other sports,” Lee said. “You’re not on separate benches, you’re all out there together. I’ve already been working on how to prepare Warwick for that kind of distraction without having any outward signs of disrespect toward Township. It’s awkward in the sense that I’m sensitive toward human interactions and feelings. But it’s not a rivalry. There’s no way I’m going to ignore kids that I know and we’re going to joke back and forth. But there won’t be any unique situation there because generally there is a positive connection among cross country teams.”

While Lee will take over a Warwick program which has enjoyed a successful tradition, he cringes at the notion of keeping things status quo. Lee’s belief is that there is always another level to reach, and his mindset is to work toward that goal.

“If I’m not bringing in whatever system I think is right, then I should not be working here,” Lee said. “Even warm-ups &tstr; a proper warm-up is not to be a jog. It should have an attitude with it. (Our kids should have) a mindfulness and desire to be an athlete and not a runner. I don’t coach runners. I coach young people have chosen to use the sport of cross country to train so they can express their competitive spirit … I just have a passion to test myself as well as offer opportunities to others to achieve levels they didn’t think they would achieve.”

Whether they are the top runner in the L-L or among the last finishers on the team, Lee wants each of his runners to look like a champion.

“I just want everyone associated with the program to be as proud as if it were any of the front-page sports,” Lee said. “I will have expectations on hydration, which every coach does. I will have expectations on mileage done the right way. Image is critical. When you are doing a warm-up run next to one of those other fields, you’d better look good.”


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