Interview: Dreher Coach Timmy Supplee after 3A State CC Win

Dreher head cross country coach Timmy Supplee talks with scrunners about the state title journey and his days running in high school. Supplee is 3A Boys SCTCCCA Coach of the Year

Name: Timmy Supplee
Years coached and school

Dreher XC Head/Track Assistant - 2016-present (seven seasons)
AC Flora Track Assistant 2016 (one season)
Crayton Middle School Track Head - 2008-10 (three seasons)
Carolina Forest Volunteer Assistant 2007

How and why did you get involved with coaching?
Throughout my running career that started out as just something to do after school when I didn't make the school soccer team, I really grew to love the competitiveness and the overall atmosphere of that go along with the running community. As a PE teacher coaching helps continue the goal of helping young people live active and healthy lifestyles and build positive relationships. I started coaching volunteering at Carolina Forest, where I did my student teaching and liked being able to share my experiences with younger runners. My first PE job out of college was hard to find and brought me back to Columbia. Crayton MS needed a PE teacher and track coach. After I changed schools from middle to elementary I took a break from coaching. I got in to road cycling racing and made friends with Tom Sunday of AC Flora. I bugged him for years, but he never had an opening. After giving up and just focusing on teaching and cycling AC Flora track needed a distance assistant and Sunday put in a word for me. At our district championship the Dreher coach approached me with a XC Head Coach opportunity. I hated leaving Flora after just one season, but everything lined up at Dreher. I ran the Shrine Bowl with Dreher coach (Katherine Warden Sipes), my teaching elementary school feeds into Dreher, and my college coach's (Andrew Allden) daughter (Kathleen Allden) ran for Dreher. I couldn't pass up moving schools.

Did you run or compete in hs or college? If so, how did this experience help now as a coach?
I ran at Irmo HS (98-03) and Coastal Carolina (03-07). I've thought back about my coaches, teammates and experiences from both hs and college a lot in the last 3-5 years. My first couple years coaching I was trying to do it all by the book and have one exact plan for the team. Thinking back on my old teams, they were all different and all needed something different. Apart from Coach Moore, who sadly passed the year before I started coaching HS and on numerous occasions I've really wanted to talk to about HS coaching, having the other teammates and coaches to call on when I needed to adapt training, a mentality and idea, or opinion on how to reach certain group or type has been huge in helping me build my team at Dreher. I'm definitely not doing everything perfect and great and there's always more to learn an adapt, but having the relationships and people to call on from my past teams is a huge help, things I don't think I'd have if I didn't run in HS/College.

"One through 37 matters. Both on the boys and girls teams. We practice together, know our roles and all play a part. Everyone is welcome and encouraged. There's always going to be those little rifts here and there, but I couldn't ask for a better dynamic to our team." - Timothy Supplee

How did it feel for you at the day of the state championships to have your team win a state title?
Sweet relief and unbelievable excitement! This has been the goal for these boys for the last few years. Coming in second as a team in track last year with four of these distance guys last year and with five of the seven being seniors in XC, they knew the opportunity and wanted a championship. As with most elite HS runners, they put in the work time over time. They committed to the goal, even when it looked bleak. It was all or nothing for them. For me, it's been my dream since 2000 when my HS team were runners up. I've been wanting a team win since. I got one conference win as a team at Coastal and it was sweet! As a coach I wanted my team to be able to share in that glory. I knew there was a chance and understood the difference in feelings of first and second. It's so tough. We very easily could've done everything in our power that day and still finish second, or third. To me, that would be ok. That's the beauty of sport. You give everything on the day and you don't know how it will play out. Sometimes it works in your favor, sometimes it doesn't. I'm super happy for our guys and school that it was Dreher's day. Seeing the look on their faces when they called Dreher High School as state champions made it all worth it. Not that if I didn't see that it wouldn't be worth it, that just made it sweet!

What steps did you take to prepare for the state meet yourself and your runners?
Our best finish at the state meet for the boys in the last seven years has been 10th. A few of those years, including last year with five of the top seven returning where we maybe could've finished top five in 4A, we still finished 10th. The boys were hungry to win and prove themselves. Moving down to 3A they were a little disappointed at first - they wanted to play their cards against the 4A schools - but we knew we'd still have great competition in 3A and had an opportunity with a chance. Five of the seven were seniors and they really wanted the win. Looking back at my history with these guys, we haven't had the best races at state. I changed some things up to try and make us more race ready - not just rested - at state. Although they didn't run the fastest times of the season, they felt fast and ready. Going through most of the season with the top ranked team, we knew our competition would be tough, planned for what could happen and did our best to execute our best at state. Even through all that we knew it would be close. We had to not worry about the other teams and just run our best on the day. It worked out for us and kudos and props to Powdersville, Philip Simmons, Walhalla and the rest of 3A for making such a great competitive meet!

What was your main focus throughout the season?
Confidence, trust and belief. Confidence that we're good enough, trust in the process and belief that it's our time to seize the opportunity. Getting the guys to continue to trust and run for each other, which they did in the past seasons. When you get a group that has been together for four-plus years, they can sometimes start doubting and blaming each other. This group didn't. They were a pack to the end.

How many hours a week would you spend training your team?
Practice was 1.5 hours a day. Monday through Friday. They ran on their own one to two days on the weekends on their own.

What is your favorite memory from practices?
Banana shorts day. Every Thursday the team had banana shorts day. JV or Varsity, if you have banana shorts wear them! The team gave all coaches their own pair at the team banquet.

How was the team chemistry throughout the season?
Great. One through 37 matters. Both on the boys and girls teams. We practice together, know our roles and all play a part. Everyone is welcome and encouraged. There's always going to be those little rifts here and there, but I couldn't ask for a better dynamic to our team.

What do you say to your runners before a race?
I black out mostly and stutter through the one million things going through my head. I sometimes have a plan of things to say and get in the huddle and forget all of it. Mostly confidence, stick to the plan, react and usually end with "have fun, run hard". For the boys at state was just telling them that I wouldn't change anything for this team no matter what and go get the opportunity before you.

If you could give a statement to others striving for a state title, what would it be?
I'm at no point to be an expert. But my thoughts are consistency to training, but be ready to adapt. Not about high miles, but the quality and consistency. You can do everything right and still not get it. Trust, relax, see what happens. Celebrate when it does happen, encourage when it doesn't. Sometimes coaches are blessed with a number of great athletes and sometimes you have to groom them.

What's it like on the course for you during the state championship races?
As a coaching staff we try to look at the course and separate ourselves out on the course to see them in different places. Personally I like to see the start to 400m to see how they get out, the mileish and 800 to go. The state course I could see them a few more times, but in most aspects, once that gun goes off, it's all them. We may yell and cheer and give advice, but for the most part our coaching aspect is finished and it's up to them and trust that what happens will happen. Easy to say, but hard to let happen!

What is the most challenging part of being a coach? How do you work around it?
Managing the time between family, work (teaching) and coaching. With my team our number one is family, number two school and number three team. Just have to have an understanding that if you're on the team to work, we're still just high school athletes and family and school comes first. The commitment it takes after that correlates with success for the most part. I guess forgiveness that things happen and trust that they're part of the process and they're not taking advantage of that.

What do you find most satisfying about being a coach? 
The friendships, smiles, laughs, cries and successes that come from coaches and athletes. The runners that come in running 45 min 5Ks just trying to finish and end the season blowing out their expectation. The veterans turning the corner from jogging to running to racing a 5K. With this sport there are so many individual successes that can be celebrated day to day.

Overall, where do you see the sports going in S.C. in the future? What will it take to achieve this?
Speaking on just the boys side, I feel like it's been an up and down spectrum for a while, but seems like we're getting close to getting back to a state record in xc, especially since we're possibly going back to the Fort next year! Our depth is improving and glad to see it's not just one or two top runners. The competition brings more competition and they're all going for the top.

What does it mean to be named coach of the year?
Pretty cool for sure. But although it's just my name on the plaque, I owe it to my assistant coach Laura Haverkamp, volunteer Jacob Mangione, the team and mostly my wife and family for putting up with my coaching passion. They are number one fans of me and Dreher and I dedicate it to them.

What's the next step as a team?
For varsity, Champs (formerly Eastbay South and Foot Locker South and RunningLane). For the rest, rest, recovery, run track and train over the summer!