One of Todd Sampson’s first assignments as Edward Little athletic director this summer was to hire a new cross country coach. Sampson decided to pick longtime coach and administrator Keith Weatherbie’s brain on who might be available to fill the vacancy.
“Other than myself, you mean?” Weatherbie answered.
Sampson was pleasantly surprised the 74-year-old Weatherbie, who last coached in 2016, was interested, and they quickly started discussing the possibility of putting him in maroon and white.
“Any time you can bring a coach on staff that has trained a Olympic gold medal winner like Joan Benoit Samuelson, you jump at that opportunity,” Sampson said. “His teaching and successful coaching experiences at Cape Elizabeth and St. Dom’s quickly made him a very attractive candidate for our opening.”
Weatherbie takes over for Ryan Getchell to become the fourth cross country coach at EL in four years.
“I never realized the position was open until Todd called me,” he said.
Since he lives in Auburn and coaching won’t interfere with the AP course he still teaches at St. Dom’s, joining Edward Little made sense. Weatherbie said he still has the energy and enthusiasm to coach, particularly in his favorite sport.
“Age is just a number. I still love doing what I do,” he said.
“The thing I loved about cross country is every single person who does the work during the course of the week, they all get a chance to compete,” he said. “There are no benchwarmers.”
Weatherbie, who has been involved in education for 52 years, began coaching in 1968 at Cape Elizabeth, where he would ultimately count a young Joan Benoit among his stars.
He also coached baseball and basketball before becoming the school’s athletic director in 1987, where he remained until he “retired” in 2008.
A year later, St. Dominic Academy hired him as a science teacher, and it wasn’t long before he was back helping out the cross country program there. He served as head coach until 2014, when he was hired as the school’s athletic administrator. He served in that capacity for one year before stepping down to focus on teaching, but returned to coaching in late 2015 when St. Dom’s needed a swimming coach.
Despite not being directly involved in the sport for several years, Weatherbie continued to follow cross country and the fortunes of the local schools, including a once deep and proud Edward Little program that has seen numbers and its status among Class A schools dwindle in recent years.
The Red Eddies boys’ finishing ninth out of 15 Class A teams at last fall’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships.The girls’, despite being led by third-place finisher Jillian Richardson, were even less successful.
“I was kind of disappointed to see they didn’t have enough girls last year to even field a team,” he said. “One of the goals we’ll have is fielding a girls team next fall.”
To that end, Weatherbie has been researching middle school cross country and high school track and field results to identify potential cross country talent.
“The challenge for cross country coaches is finding athletes that are committed to doing the work necessary to become a distance runner,” he said. “Running can be a lonely sport, but it’s also important to develop camaraderie amongst the kids and have them treat that last runner the same as all of the runners.”
“Edward Little is known for the success of its track and field program, and I don’t see any reason that you can’t have a distance program that is as good as the rest of the track program,” he said. “A school this size should have a competitive cross country program.”
Keith Weatherbie, whose cross country coaching career began in 1968, hopes to revive Edward Little’s cross country program as the new head coach.