The girls track team that could hasn’t been slowed this season by its heavy hearts.
The season got off to an emotional and grief-stricken start for the 14-member Southern Wells girls track team when coach Chris Killingbeck died March 24 while many of the Raiders’ athletes were on spring break. Killingbeck, who had coached the Southern Wells girls team for seven years, suffered a heart attack, giving the team a life lesson in dealing with grief while also getting ready for a season.
Boys coach Gary Paxson began as the acting girls coach a day after Killingbeck’s death and officially began coaching both teams soon after spring break.
The postseason, which gets underway today with the sectionals, has given the Raiders something different to focus on.
Shock was the big thing, Paxson said of the team’s reaction to Killingbeck’s passing. Some of them are still in shock. From the beginning, they were in shock and disbelief. They took it hard to begin with; I think anybody would.
It helped the transition for Paxson and the girls team because his daughter Hilary is a member of the team. Also, the staffs of each team work together on coaching specific events.
I briefly talked with a parent about a week into the season, and she said kids are resilient, Paxson said. I don’t think they really grasp what’s going on. Their way of dealing with it is kind of forget about it. That’s what they did. We dealt with it, but it was in the back of everybody’s mind all year long. We briefly talked about the things coach Killingbeck would do throughout the year. Every once in a while, there would be a tear in the eye.
Southern Wells has shown its perseverance all season. The Raiders finished second in the ACAC track meet. Senior Ivy Maddox was part of two winning events for the Raiders at the ACAC meet: the 800-meter run and the 3,200 relay.
I didn’t really believe it, Maddox said. It didn’t seem real even when we got back. I don’t think anyone was really knowing what to expect. It’s brought everybody closer together, and we have become a lot more of a team.
The grief part was all in the beginning. We all know he is watching us all now and proud of us in everything we do. We know he is still there for us, so as time has gone on it has gotten better for everyone and easier to handle.
While the team didn’t officially dedicate the season to Killingbeck with black arm bands, one of the team trophies for the Adams Central Invitational was named in his memory.
A few individuals have talked about dedicating their season to him, Maddox said. After every meet, we talk about how we did and normally something is said about how coach Killingbeck would be proud of us, and how we know he is watching over us. It has made us think twice and work even harder to try to do our best. And we want to make him proud.