Inspiring Coaches: How Guy Poncy Gave Me A Path To Follow

There's a moment in every race when I need to make a decision--will I let this pain overtake me or will I dig deeper to muster more strength? Every time I reach this point, I try my best to remember one person cheering me on with a stopwatch in hand at the 200-meter mark.

Coach Guy Poncy always believed I could handle it, even when I didn't believe it myself.

As my high school coaches will tell you, I was a difficult athlete. I joined the Orange (CA) Lutheran High cross country team reluctantly and only after the head coach asked me to try it when one of his top seven scorers got injured. I was a soccer player who happened to run a six-minute mile in eighth grade. I didn't know that cross country was a sport, let alone understand how the scoring worked. But luckily our assistant coach, Poncy, was patient.

Right away, I noticed that this team was different. Before every race, Coach Poncy would gather everyone in a circle where we would hold hands and pray together.

null"What's the most important thing we do?" he always asked before we began.

"Pray!" we said.

l'd been part of several soccer teams who would get fired up with pep talks and loud music right before games, so this ritual was definitely a first. But that prayer made me more prepared for competition than any pump-up song ever could.

While playing soccer and running track at the same time, I experienced several overuse injuries. My body caved in the form of tendinitis and a stress fracture. Before track season started my junior year, I wasn't fit enough to be running with the team just yet. But Coach Poncy joined me on easy runs, no questions asked. Frankly, I forgot my watch so many times that he probably joined me to make sure I ran long enough and didn't get lost.

"Hellooo, McFly!" he'd say while flicking me on the forehead and rolling his eyes.

"I know coach. I'll remember my watch next time," I'd say while laughing at his frequent "Back to the Future" movie references.

Coach Poncy was a man of few words, but when he spoke, everyone listened. During my junior year, our team went through a head coach transition. Poncy remained in his role as an assistant, but the change caused a lot of dissension within the team. Unsure of what the future held for the leadership and our team's success, I remember asking my mom what I should do. She told me that I just needed to listen to Coach Poncy. He was my constant.

That fall, I was the only person from our team to qualify for the California state cross country meet. It was an unusual experience, because historically our team placed within the top five in our division every year. After I earned a spot to compete as an individual, my parents assumed that they would drive me to the meet without the coaches so as not to inconvenience them. But Coach Poncy would never let that happen.

"Of course I'm going!" I remember him saying when my parents brought it up.

I was so relieved. I may have qualified as an individual, but Coach Poncy would never let me compete alone.

nullThe summer before my senior year, I made the decision to quit soccer in order to pursue running full time. Years of being the difficult soccer player ultimately culminated with me choosing the sport that I was initially reluctant to accept. When I called Coach Poncy to share the news, I had to assure him that it wasn't a prank.

"Are you serious?!" he said.

"Yes, but now you have to make me really fast," I told him.

"That I can do," he assured me.

That fall, our team won the California state meet. It was the first time in our school's history that the cross country team had won a state championship, and it came together one year after our team failed to qualify. To this day, it is my proudest high school athletic achievement.

Six months later, my parents woke me up in the middle of the night with unthinkable news. Coach Poncy passed away while in the middle of his daily morning run. His heart gave out on a trail that we had run together hundreds of times. At first, I thought I was having a bad dream. It couldn't be real. How could my 53-year-old coach who surfed, biked and ran every day be gone? But as soon as I arrived at school the next morning, it became real. Coach Poncy would no longer be standing at the 200m mark. He wouldn't be there to push me along when I forgot my watch. He wouldn't lead any more prayers.

I've been fortunate enough to have several amazing coaches over the years, but I will always be grateful for the inspiration that I received from being Coach Poncy's athlete. He kept me honest, he showed me loyalty, and he was a constant reminder of what is most important in running and in life.

Whether it's the final 200m of a race or a tough stretch in my personal life, I know that Coach Poncy would be there urging me to dig deeper and muster that strength he always knew was there.

Do you have a coach that has made an impact on your life? Nominate them for the Brooks Inspiring Coaches program here.

Michael Norman Debuts With 43.45 400m, #4 All-Time

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

It’s only April 20, but already 21-year-old Michael Norman has put the 400m world record on notice:

Asbel Kiprop Banned Four Years For Doping Violation

Former 1,500m Olympic and World champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya has been banned four years for a doping violation, the IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced on Saturday. The 29-year-old Kiprop tested positive for EPO in a out-of-competition test in late 2017, and was provisionally suspended from competition on February 3, 2018.

Weekend Watch Guide: Loaded Distance Races At Bryan Clay, Cardinal Classic

Another busy weekend of college and professional track and field is on tap, and FloTrack has you covered Thursday through Saturday with five live events:

FloTrack To Stream 2019 London Marathon In Select Countries

AUSTIN, Texas — April 18, 2019 — Today, FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, announced an agreement with London Marathon Events to provide live and on-demand coverage of the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon on FloTrack.com exclusively in Canada, Australia, Pan Europe (excluding UK, Ireland, and Italy) and Pan Asia (excluding China and Japan). The deal was agreed to in collaboration with TCB Sport Media.

Bryan Clay Is The Place To Be For NCAA Champs This Weekend

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Good weather and deep fields will once again make the Bryan Clay Invitational fast. Here are four events to watch on Thursday and Friday at Azusa Pacific University.

'It's About Dang Time': Fauble, Ward Break Through In Boston

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The last time that an American man not-named Galen Rupp broke 2:10 in the marathon before Monday, a 25-year-old Jared Ward owned a 2:16 PB and Scott Fauble was a junior in college.

House Of Run: Two Ohhhh Nine

Jason and Kevin discuss a tight finish in the men’s race, a dominant performance by Worknesh Degefa, the American men smashing the 2:10 barrier, Jordan Hasay bouncing back and all the other news from the 2019 Boston Marathon.

'SPEED CITY' Episode Two Debuts LIVE On April 17 At 6PM CT

null

Two weeks ago, we debuted our season-long series, "SPEED CITY: A Season With The Houston Cougars," which follows the Houston men's track and field program as they pursue their first-ever NCAA team title. 

Worknesh Degefa Runs Away With 2019 Boston Marathon Title

Prior to today, Worknesh Degefa had no experience with the Boston Marathon course. 

Lawrence Cherono Outkicks Lelisa Desisa To Win 2019 Boston Marathon

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Monday’s Boston Marathon wasn’t decided in the Newton Hills, a 24th-mile run in 4:31, or a big surge on Hereford. Instead, it came down to the final meters, where Lawrence Cherono pushed past Lelisa Desisa in the last strides to win his first marathon major.