Father-daughter coaching tandem leading Cedar Springs cross country program to new heights

Father-daughter coaching tandem leading Cedar Springs cross country program to new heights

Provided by Sue Wolfe | Advance Newspapers

CEDAR SPRINGS -- Boys cross-country coach Ted Sabinas, his daughter Jen (Sabinas) Kahler, girls cross country coach, and their teams have been setting Cedar Springs High School records all season.

However, this year's teams are definitely earning elite status that may never be surpassed.

Both teams finished first in the Division 2 regional meets at Benzie Central. Not only did they earn two (boys and girls) regional team titles for Cedar Springs, but they also laid claim to the top two running times from all divisions in the state. Kenzie Weiler and Connor Mora each finished with the best current individual times in the state.

"We have two of the very best cross-country runners in Michigan right here in Cedar Springs," explained Sabinas. "These runners have not only accomplished outstanding personal running feats, but have also inspired and challenged the rest of the team, knowing that it takes a entire team to win conference, regional, and state competitions."

Kenzie Weiler, a freshman on the girls' team, and Connor Mora, a junior, have been posting some of the fastest times in the state all year. The Cedar Springs girls' team has sisters Kenzie and Katie Weiler -- daughters of Pat and Julie (Myers) Weiler (both outstanding high school and collegiate athletes themselves -- finished first and second at regionals with times of 17.13 minutes and 17.57, respectively.

"Our team has worked very hard this year. At the regional meet, all seven runners from both the girls and boys teams achieved personal-best times of their career thus far. The Weilers' other five running mates had personal-best times, which include Sommer Vandyke (19:23), Maddie Pekrul (19:32), Michaela Burnett (19:41), Christina Dean (20:04), and Kendahl Oberdorfer (20:22). It is important that our players stay healthy and reach their peak at this point of the season. They are doing just that," said Kahler.

The Weiler sisters say they respect and admire the blend of coaching the team has received this year from the father-daughter coaching duo.

"They brought different elements into our practices and meets at different times during the season. As shown in the team's success, it has been the perfect combination of coaching styles."

For the first time in CSHS history, the girls' team has been ranked first in the state. The team won both the conference and regional meets.

Kahler had to miss only a few weeks of the season, giving birth to her first child, Lela. She and her father worked together to keep the team with a well-planned schedule during Kahler's short absence.

This is Kahler's ninth season as the varsity girls coach, during which the team holds three consecutive conference and regional titles.

When Coach Kahler was asked how she can continually bring the best out of her runners, both physically and mentally, she explains: "The girls and I believe strongly in the sense of team, and the work that they put in day in and day out for each other helps strengthen each individual's running performance."

"Jen is highly respected among the running class of athletes and coaches throughout the state for her knowledge and abilities. In just nine years, she has already accomplished many of the goals I set for my teams in a 27-year span," explains Sabinas. "She is doing an amazing job with the many facets of coaching necessary to achieve conference, regional, and state-level success."

Sabinas is in his 27th year as varsity men's coach. He too holds school and state records for his cross-country teams, including more than 160 dual-meet wins, three conference titles, three regional titles, and 11 teams placing in state meets.

"Conner Mora has consistently been an outstanding runner. However, Connor would be quick to point out that our team's success is just that -- team success and not individual success," Sabinas said.

"This is a pretty unique moment for our school and community, having two teams qualify for state during the same season, and to have the best male and female runner in the state on our teams," Cedar Springs athletics director Autumn Mattson said.

"This is all happening under the leadership of a father-daughter cooperative coaching effort."