More than 30 years have passed since Pequea Valley High School last fielded a cross country program.
During that span, Garden Spot alum Keith Andrew has kept busy teaching in the classroom and coaching at Coatesville, building the Red Raiders into a Ches-Mont League and District One powerhouse cross country program. Among many highlights, Andrew steered the Coatesville boys to Class 3A team state championships in 2000 and 2006. The 2006 squad then went on to win that year's national title at the prestigious Nike Team Nationals.
After having retired from Coatesville three years ago, Andrew is returning to coaching at Pequea Valley, where a boys and girls cross country program is launching this fall.
“For me to get a program started, this is like a dream to see what I can do with it,” Andrew said. “I coached 33 years down at Coatesville. But we were always 3A, in the big-school division. ... This is just a great challenge in starting up a small-school program in 2A.”
Pequea Valley athletic director Mark Grossmann said he believes the school hasn’t had a cross country program since the mid-1980s. The rebirth of the program is coming as a result of students’ interest in bringing the sport back.
“If I got requests about anything it was about something running,” Grossmann said. “And there was a little bit of an interest at the school board level. We talked about the pros and cons presented at a small school challenged with numbers. That’s the genesis of it.”
Pequea Valley dropped field hockey, a fall sport, in 2016 because of low turnout. And it doesn’t have a track and field program, which has presented hurdles for Andrew, 61, in finding potential runners.
“I think I have five or six boys and about 13 girls,” Andrew said. “But I don’t know all the grade levels (of those student-athletes) yet.”
That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic has kept schools closed since mid-March, and has led Andrew to send online workouts to interested runners. He’s hoping to meet and work with those student-athletes in person in voluntary offseason workouts in the coming weeks.
Another obstacle Pequea Valley must contend with: The Lancaster-Lebanon League cross country slate is already on the books for the next two-year cycle. As a result, Pequea Valley will be in a two-year probationary period as an L-L member, which means it will compete in a varsity schedule against other L-L teams, but those results won’t officially count towards league standings nor regular season win-loss records.
However, Pequea Valley can still qualify for the District Three Class 2A meet if it is able to compete in at least nine nonleague events.
“I’m hoping to take them to districts,” Andrew said. “And get as many athletes to states as we can.”
It’s a lofty goal for a small-school program starting from scratch. But Andrew’s coaching tenure and accomplishments speak for themselves.
“I’m hoping to take a program that’s just starting and make them competitive from the first gun,” Andrew said. “I’m absolutely certain I have the knowledge to train them to be competitive.”
Since retiring from teaching, Andrew has spent the last three years first opening and then operating an antiques shop in Strasburg. He heard about the coaching opening through his wife, Tammy, who works as a fourth-grade teacher at Pequea Valley’s Paradise Elementary School.
“I’ve been offered other places and just didn’t want to go there,” Andrew said. “Their programs have already been established. It’s starting from the bare bottom and making it into what I think we can make it that’s appealing to me. … But it’s not about me. It’s about them, the athletes. If you get the right athletes and get the right mental game going with these athletes, the rest will take care of itself.”