Chris Verhoven found himself in the right place Saturday:¿the driver’s seat.
Verhoven is taking the wheel of the Danville cross country program, and on Saturday he went for an even easier drive during Coach Plummer’s 5K¿Run.
The annual cross country race at Admiral Stadium is named for former Danville runner and coach E.G. Plummer and is a benefit for the cross country program, and working the event was one of Verhoven’s first duties as the Admirals’ new coach.
His assignment Saturday was to trail the field in a utility vehicle, following the slowest walkers around the course to make sure all of the participants made it through safely.
Verhoven has been Danville’s boys track and field coach for 12 years, and this season he is replacing Ed McKinney, who was recently named the school’s principal, as the boys and girls cross country coach.
“The two programs go together. Track athletes and cross country athletes, a lot of them are the same,” Verhoven said.
Plummer also coached both sports at Danville, and Verhoven said he knows he can turn to Plummer when he needs some advice on a sport he is coaching for the first time.
“The great thing is having someone like E.G. to mentor you and show you what to do,” he said. “There’s nobody better than E.G.”
Verhoven was also encouraged by the performances of several Danville runners who took part in Saturday’s 3.1-mile race. Karl Hempel, Chase Berry and Calvin Steber finished third, fourth and fifth in the 3.1-mile race, and three-time Class A¿girls cross country champion Kaitlin Snapp was the top female runner in the 3.1-mile race.
“It was nice to see those boys (run well), and it’s always nice to have a Kaitlin Snapp waiting on you,” Verhoven said.
Verhoven has held only a couple of practices so far, but some of the Danville runners who have been coached by him in track said they already have an idea of what to expect.
“It looks like we’re going to be working hard this year,”¿Hempel said. “He knows we’re a dedicated group of guys from the track team, so it looks like he’s actually going to be pushing us, so I’m ready for whatever.”
He said that will apparently include asking runners who also play soccer in the fall — and Danville has several of them — to take part in cross country practices whenever possible during the season, something that McKinney didn’t require.
“Chris is really going to expect Calvin, Chase and I to step it up and actually be running during the soccer season,” Hempel said.
Austin Barringer, who will be a freshman, said he’s looking forward to working with Verhoven.
“He’s a really nice coach, and he is going to push us,”¿Austin Barringer said. “I¿think he’s a totally different style than what we’ve seen before with coach McKinney. And I really like coach McKinney, but I think with coach Verhoven as a team we’re really going to step it up a lot.”
Verhoven will be busy soon, but didn’t have so much to do at Saturday’s race thanks to Plummer and his small army of volunteers, including former Danville runner Cassie Trueblood, who handles advance entries for the race and is the only runner who has competed in each of the 15 Plummer runs.
He is Danville’s fourth cross country coach since Plummer retired, and Plummer said he thinks the program is in good hands.
“Where he’s coaching track, he’s already coached the distance runners. And with his track experience, that’ll help him blend right in,”¿Plummer said.