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Meet the Coaches: Matthew Werner, Cross Country

Matthew Werner fell in love with cross-country running at an early age, running throughout both middle school and high school at Cedar Crest High School. Werner continued cross-country running into his college years, and, after graduating from Penn State University in 2010 with a degree in International Relations and an English minor, he began coaching runners in the McCaskey and Red Lion school districts. 

In 2016, Werner joined the Donegal family as the boys’ and girls’ cross-country coach.

Q&A with Matthew Werner     

Q: Why is community support important for Donegal Athletics?

The school is part of the community, and we need the community to hold up the school. Without community support, I know my kids would probably not be as motivated to do as well. We have a lot of support here at Donegal. We always have people asking us how we’re doing; we’re lucky enough to usually have two home meets a year, and both meets are really, really well attended. That’s important to us as well.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a coach?

My favorite thing about being a coach is watching a kid react to doing something that they never thought they could do before, like running in a time that they thought they would never accomplish, or winning a race, or coming in second or third on the team. That’s always the best part.

Q: What has been your best moment as a coach?  

I would say there are two. The first one would be having Silas Buckwalter make it to States last year. It was great to watch him accomplish basically the greatest thing in our sport, making it to States. I was really, really proud of him, and I was proud of the work that he put in. I was happy that he got to experience States, and the team went up with him to also experience it.

My other favorite moment team wise was last year when the team took a trip to a corn maze. We did girls versus guys; the girls team beat the guys. We also did laser tag last year. I think those are some of my favorite memories of coaching so far.

Q: What’s your philosophy on coaching?

I think I kind of tailor my coaching to my personality. I’m a little bit more laid back than a lot of teachers and other coaches. That’s just my personality, and I think my coaching kind of goes along those lines. That’s not to say that we’re not doing hard workouts or not following a strict routine, but, at the end of the day, I like the kids to be light and loose and not overthinking everything. I want them to have fun and to look back on their time and think, “I loved running cross-country in high school because of the camaraderie and because I pushed myself.”

Q: What makes Donegal Athletics so special?

The school is small enough that everyone really comes together and supports each other. I hear people always talking about different teams and going to watch the other sports. You don’t always get that at larger schools because everyone kind of has their own agenda. I have a really good baseball player on my team and good swimmers; I like the fact that sports can overlap, and the school is small enough that there’s a pretty strong bond between the kids that allows them all to support each other.

Q: What do you want your athletes to take away from being on your team?

Cross country is one of those sports that can be extremely tough. That’s especially true if you’re a runner who, maybe you’re not in the front of the pack, and maybe you find yourself in what I call ‘no man’s land’ where you’re running in a race and there’s no one in front of you and no one behind you. You can get to those points on the course where you’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and there are no spectators. It takes a lot of self-motivation and self-will to push yourself through those miles when it’s so easy to give up. I hope that that can be a springboard for the rest of their lives. When times get hard or they can’t get a promotion at work or they can’t do this or that—whether it’s personal goals or work goals—they can look back and say, “I was able to run five miles without stopping in under 23 minutes when it was 90 degrees outside, I can will myself to do this as well.”