I dashed across the busy street and onto the campus of my old high school. Guessing my way around all the new construction, I found my mother-in-law behind the school gym, on the track.
Five days a week, Julie rushes from teaching her college-level Spanish class to the high school track. She spends two hours running in circles with “her” girls, in the heat, in the wind. And she doesn’t get paid. Julie Kelly is not your average high school cross-country coach.
My mother-in-law is an incredible runner in her own right. She and my father-in-law, Mike, run circles around their peers at local races. They both hold age-group records in various distances. They are well known around Oklahoma as “The Kellys,” to be contended with at every 5K, 10K or marathon within driving distance.
Julie also teaches three Spanish classes at Oklahoma State University. Naturally, her paying job consumes much of her time. But when Stillwater High School asked her if she would be willing to be the assistant coach for the girls’ cross-country team, she said yes, with one stipulation: she did not want to be paid.
Julie says she likes knowing that she has the freedom not to attend every single cross-country meet. Besides, it is Julie’s nature to give, give and give more without wanting any reimbursement or compensation.
“I know the girls like having me there; that makes me feel good,” Julie said. “They need to have someone they know is on their side and that they are able to talk to. Sometimes they get discouraged or have other things on their mind, and they need someone to talk to. I get to be their friend.”