Cross’ destination: the graduation ceremony for the United States Naval Academy, where he would watch proudly as a former student athlete graduated as a certified sailor, and a champion runner for the Navy’s track and field division.
After 20 years as a local cross country coach, there’s nothing that Ron Cross appreciates more than knowing he’s had a positive influence in the lives of former athletes, like the one he visited in D.C.
"It was like being a proud papa, a proud dad, really … It’s enjoyable and it’s nice to see (former athletes) go on and do great things,” Cross said of the graduation ceremony. “The most rewarding aspect of coaching is when kids take the time to email, text or call later in life to let me know how they are doing. It means a lot to me that they still think of me and want to stay in touch.”
A local mentor at various regional high schools for more than two decades, Cross currently works to inspire athletes as the cross country coach at Spanish Springs High School, where he’s been since its opening in 2001. An area native himself, Cross got involved with running as a student at Hug High School before graduating to compete on the former men’s team at UNR.
Upon graduating, and deciding to return for a teaching degree, Cross dedicated himself to the task of teaching computer literacy and business at local high schools, until inspired by friends and running mates to become a coach himself.
“I coach because you get a deeper involvement with the kids,” Cross said. “My coaches were very influential and I wanted to be a positive influence to the kids, like my coaches were to me.”
In addition to acting as a coach at SSHS, Cross also serves as the school’s “Technology Coordinator,” helping students and teachers navigate the school’s technology and working with the district to keep the equipment as up-to-date as possible.
“Basically, I support the administration, teachers, staff and students with the current technology we have at the school,” Cross said of his occupational duties. “I am a certified teacher, but am very fortunate to be able to support our school on a full-time basis. It’s a great job and one I take seriously.”
Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson, who has worked with Cross since the school’s opening, considers him as an indispensable member of the SSHS team, both in his coaching and occupational capacity.
“A huge portion of what everybody does at the school involves a computer … Ron is charged with making sure we’re able to do those things. It’s an extremely important job that he does here,” Anderson said. “He is an excellent coach. Extremely passionate about what he does. He’s lived it … he’s coaching for the right reasons. He want the kids to love it and be as passionate about running as he is … Ron just does a great job with everything.”
When he’s not coaching or helping the school with technological operations, Cross spends his free time working at Rail City Garden Center, spending time with his two teen-age daughters, or outdoors hiking and golfing.
This year, Cross is looking forward to his 12th season as head cross country coach for SSHS. Despite the smoky conditions which have forced the team to practice inside over the past weeks, Cross continues to be optimistic about the coming season.
“This year, I think we have a really good boys team, and we’ve had some good additions to the girls,” Cross said. “I think we’ll have a good, successful season, and hopefully the kids will enjoy running and want to come back.”
Regardless of performance, Cross believes that the most important asset he can inspire with his coaching is the determination to give 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time.
“Strive to do the best (you) can,” Cross said when asked what his message for athletes is. “Work hard, have a positive attitude, have fun and just do your best so there are no regrets later.”
In the end, it’s the life-long personal connection he’s able to make with his athletes that makes the job worthwhile, Cross says.
“You get to have a different relationship when you deal with the kids as a coach instead of as just a teacher. You spend more time with them, and they confide in you more,” He said. “The pay isn’t much, but the intrinsic rewards are priceless.”
Movie: The Rocky Series
Book: Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.
Favorite Running Shoe: Whatever happens to be on sale at the Legends Outlets
Mac or P.C.?: It’s a toss up.
Favorite Food: Pretty much anything … but he certainly enjoyed the Rib Cookoff