Track, cross country coach resignation causes outrage among athletes, parents

Girls cross country and track coach Patrick Lantzy resigned May 14. When announcing his resignation to the track team, he told them that he attempted to negotiate dropping his eighth period track class, while keeping first period track and cross country and his history position citing he wanted to spend more time with his family. The school refused because it conflicted with staffing, instead offering Lantzy a choice to stay on as only a track coach and history teacher, so he resigned. The immediate reaction from the athletes when he told them the news was tears. For many on the team, Lantzy was not only their coach, but a trusted mentor.

“When I first heard Coach Lantzy would not be coming back next year, I was heartbroken,” sophomore Katie Kearney said. “I’ve never had a coach who cares about me as a person as much as he does. What he brings to the girls’ track and cross country programs is something very special that can’t be replaced.”

Lantzy has worked at Westlake for four years, and in that short time he has completely transformed the girls’ track and cross country programs. Just this year, he led the varsity cross country team to Regionals. During track, he trained a 4×400-meter relay team to go to the State meet, which broke a school record along the way.

“Coach Lantzy has such a positive influence on all his athletes,” sophomore Kara Nelson said. “He is by far the most dedicated coach at Westlake High School. He is not only an outstanding coach, but an amazing person all around. I don’t think anyone on the team can imagine being coached by anyone else, and finding out he was leaving was such a heartbreaking day for all of us. He goes above and beyond for the team, and he truly cares about each and every one of us.”

Some runners fear that the introduction of a new coach will disrupt the consistency of their training and the progression of the team. Practice is not just a time for training, but also a time to push and support other teammates to reach their goals. His understanding of this has brought the team closer and more in sync.

“Coach Lantzy is constantly supporting everyone on the team, no matter their ranking,” junior Chloe Harms said. “He is constantly motivating us, and that kind of positive energy rubs off on the whole team. Because of Coach Lantzy, our whole team has become like sisters. We push each other to our limits, and because of that, we have been extremely successful this season. I wouldn’t be able to make it through cross country without the constant love and support from all of the teammates and especially Coach Lantzy. He’s one of a kind and is by far the best coach I have ever had and will have.”

The athletes and their parents emailed the school board, athletic director Todd Dodge and girls’ athletic director Haley Gaddis to explain why Lantzy’s needs should be met so he can keep his coaching position.

“We are asking that Coach Lantzy be retained as our girls’ head cross country coach and as a teacher,” parent Robin Hendrix said. “It is clear from the outpouring of support that parents and students alike do not want to lose one of the best coaches, educators and mentors in our district. Additionally, our track program needs a replacement head coach with track experience who will coach every runner, regardless of ability, like Coach Lantzy does. This is a minimum requirement if the track program is to operate to the standard of excellence that every student athlete deserves.”

In one email to the school board concerning the issue, sophomore Maddie Dawson wrote: “No coach will ever be able to replace Coach Lantzy’s positive, humorous and caring energy. He supports every single runner on the team, from the top of varsity to bottom of JV. Everyone on the team runs for him; he is our number one motivator. In races and workouts, all my energy goes toward making Lantzy proud. Lantzy is the first person I come talk to during lunch when I’ve had a bad day, or need to discuss problems in my life. He has been the best coach I’ve ever had, and one of the best people I’ve ever met.”

In response to the many emails that have been flooding into her inbox from athletes and their parents, Gaddis says she has responded with thanking them for taking the time to write to her. She expresses sadness at losing such a dedicated and talented coach.

“I think that he is a great coach and awesome with his athletes,” Gaddis said. “Coach Lantzy addressed his needs with the athletic department, and we did everything we could to meet those needs. As an athletic administration, we have to take the needs of our coaches into account, along with the needs of the current staff in place, the needs of all sports and what staffing positions that we have. We did our best to meet Coach Lantzy’s needs with possible solutions as we wanted to keep him on our coaching staff. In the end, it was ultimately his decision, and he chose to resign from his position. That isn’t what we wanted to happen, but we also understand that he has to do what is best for him.”

Gaddis also explained how the school was unable to fund the hiring of an additional track coach because of budget cuts. Some have pointed out that despite budget cuts, Westlake employs an abundance of coaches in other sports. It has led people to question if there is inequality in the athletics program.

“Coach Lantzy has a large amount of athletes,” sophomore Izzy Mazuelos said. “If he could get more assistance it would greatly benefit the team.”

The five assistant coaches assigned to track that also coach other sports aren’t available to properly train their athletes until the end of the season for the sport they primarily coach. So, if a sports season goes longer than expected, fewer assistant coaches are available to help train and run meets at the beginning of track season.

“If the school could appoint a separate eighth period track coach, the track athletes would get more specialized attention and unburden Lantzy from his overload of requirements,” Katie said. ”If Westlake can’t create a comfortable environment for our teachers, they can’t expect them to stay.”