The clincher, when Gerry Chester knew without a shadow of a doubt he wanted to return to his post as Griswold High School boys’ cross country coach, came last fall on state championship Saturday at Wickham Park. In the snow.
“I went to watch and I got all nervous,” said Chester, who took time off from coaching to watch his son Erik compete for Seton Hall over the last four years. “I was like, ‘You’re going to watch a cross country race … why are you nervous?’ Then it started to snow. It was great.
“It never leaves you. If you’ve never competed or you haven’t coached, maybe you don’t understand that. But this is great.”
Chester coached cross country for 14 years at Ellis Tech, followed by nine years at Griswold. His teams won a combined 13 state championships. Erik, who ran for his dad at Griswold, graduated from Seton Hall earlier this year with a dual degree in sports management and finance. That cleared the path for Gerry Chester’s return to Griswold.
On Saturday, his team, featuring 13 runners, seven freshmen, competed at the 34th Haddad Windham Invitational. Three members of the Wolverines finished in the top 30 in the boys’ freshman race, leading Griswold to a second-place finish in that event.
Griswold is a member of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Small Division.
“I love it. I love going to practice,” Chester said Saturday. “I have one senior, a couple sophomores and everyone else is new. I have seven freshmen who I absolutely love. It’s just wide-eyed innocence – holy cow. Everything important I have to tell them I say three times. The first two don’t count and I hope by the third time they’re paying attention.”