For Jim Thorpe cross country coach Drew Benyo, the journey continues.
After being selected as one of 26 candidates for the 2013 Brooks Inspiring Coach of the Year Award, Benyo recently learned that he is one of 10 finalists that will be making the trip to Seattle, Washington, where the winner will be announced on August 7.
Because of that nomination, the Jim Thorpe cross country program will be awarded $5,000 worth of Brooks running gear, as well as $500 cash to be used for team expenses. If Benyo is selected as the top coach, the team will receive an additional $5,000 in gear and $2,000 in cash for team expenses.
The community and school district have been behind Benyo from the beginning and he credits that support as one of the primary reasons he's been able to make it to this point.
"They did a great deal to help me when they found out about me being one of the 26," Benyo said. "Dr. Conway (Jim Thorpe Superintendent) sent out information on the voting process on the school website. She also made an announcement at the end of school to all students, and once again at the end of the year staff meetings.
"I am certain all those votes from the school community had a great deal to do with Brooks including me in the final 10. I truly thank any and all who took the time to put a check mark next to my photo on the Brooks web site."
The honor is something that has more than humbled Benyo, who has been coaching at Jim Thorpe for 25 years and produced 11 PIAA state qualifiers during his tenure.
"To represent the town of Jim Thorpe, the Jim Thorpe School District and the Jim Thorpe cross country program in Seattle, at an amazing event put on by one of the major shoe companies in the world is just stunning to me," Benyo said. "To be recognized as one of the best at what you do at your job, at your company, takes your breath away. Take that beyond to the league you coach in, or the district and it's beyond unbelievable. How about being considered as one of the best in the state? Unheard of. Stretch that to the country, the nation; it's mind blowing."
The opportunity to represent the program at such an esteemed event is something that is not lost on Benyo and one the coach will handle with the same etiquette he expects of his team.
"Being in Seattle is an honor, and a great responsibility," Benyo said. "I hope I live up to the demands I put on my runners when I tell them they are the most important young people at Jim Thorpe High School, in that no one sees the football, baseball or softball teams practice. No one sees the volleyball, golf, basketball or wrestling teams practice.
"But every day the entire community watches the cross country team practice. I will do my best to uphold what I ask each of my runners to display each and every day they run for me. I am so very proud to be an Olympian, and represent the district, and my teams."
Benyo will also be representing assistant coaches past and present when he travels to Washington, and he thanks them for molding him into the coach he is today.
"For many of my 25 years, I coached both boys and girls alone, but I have been blessed with truly dedicated coaches and runners who added so very much to the development of the young runners at Jim Thorpe," Benyo said. "It has been an honor to work with George Mitzen, Dave Matsinko, Janet Ginder, Nancy Smith and Marie Rosahac. They are all great people, dedicated coaches and truly wonderful friends. No way we could have accomplished what we did without each and every one of them."
Even with the help of a number of assistant coaches over the years, Benyo has had to make sacrifices in his personal life to sustain the program's success. But during that time Benyo has also received unwavering support form his wife, Darlene.
"Every coach's wife or husband puts up with the late meals, the time away, the season's ups and downs, but Darlene has gone so far beyond that," said Benyo. "She has been on busses when I could not be and wiped more than her share of cuts, scrapes and tears; welcomed unnumbered former runners on her furniture over Christmas vacations; and put up with my foul moods and disappointments. She even went to Death Valley with and for me. Who could ask for more?"
With his family and community firmly behind him, Benyo is one step away from adding another achievement to his long list of accomplishments. Much like the others, it's well deserved.