Indian Valley cross country: Brothers have 39 years of combined service to team

Indian Valley cross country: Brothers have 39 years of combined service to team
Teri Stein

Runners get in some practice inside and outside of town.


The streets of Gnadenhutten are quiet, shady and full of potential for two brothers with a goal of keeping the Indian Valley cross country teams doing their best. Doug and Jim Krocker know the lengths of all the running routes through town and beyond.

The two were runners long before they became coaches at Indian Valley Schools. Doug Krocker of Goshen started coaching in 1999, and Jim Krocker of Wainwright began coaching in 2002. Through their work they have gained much.

“They become your own family after a while,” Jim Krocker said of the students and other coaches he works with. He got involved in the program when former IVS Superintendent Roger Bond asked him to help with the newly formed biddy cross country team.

Though the meets sometimes have the coaches leaving with their team before daylight and returning home late in the afternoon, the brothers are totally committed to the cross country teams’ efforts. Both agree they do it for the kids.

Jim Krocker worked unconventional hours for years as an engineer, beginning at 6 a.m. each day so he could get to the school to help with practice by 3:30 p.m. Recently, when the company he worked for changed hands, he took a manufacturing job within the organization so he could continue to coach. Doug Krocker, while working varying shifts, has used much vacation time at his job to attend cross country events.

“I enjoy being around the kids and helping them succeed,” Doug Krocker said.

Teams and individuals they’ve coached have earned spots in the regional and state meets over the years.

The brothers are grateful to former cross country coach Dave Norris, who not only helped shape the teams’ successes, but also influenced them to become better coaches.

The brothers see much benefit in the sport.

“Cross country builds confidence in the kids. Sometimes they don’t think they can do it, and then they go out and do it,” Jim Krocker said.

Jim Krocker serves as the IVMS cross country coach, and during track season, he serves as assistant coach for the distance runners. Doug Krocker was a sports assistant for a time and currently serves as a volunteer coach. No matter the original assignment, all the coaches who work with cross country end up helping with both the middle school and high school teams during the season.

Doug Krocker started to coach when his son, Steve, joined the team in middle school. His older son, Dan, also ran in high school. He is now looking forward to coaching his granddaughter, Sophia, in a few years.

Jim Krocker helped coach his daughter, Abby Zevitas, and son, Andy, who is now a volunteer with the team.

One of the perks of coaching is the opportunity to run with the students. “The exercise is good,” Doug Krocker said.

The camaraderie of those running cross country is something the brothers and the runners like. “Even with the other schools at meets, there is camaraderie because they are all doing something different than football or other team sports,” Jim Krocker said. “During the races, the kids will go out and cheer for each other. You’ll see a lot of rooting for kids on other teams. I’ve seen kids get together, say a prayer and then they all go to the starting line to race against each other.”

Safety is a top concern. Whether you are a paid coach or a volunteer, the requirements are identical. “You have to jump through all the same hoops: get state certified in sports medicine, the approval of the superintendent, background checked and fingerprinted,” Doug Krocker said.

Sports medicine classes are recurring, and the brothers once took the opportunity to attend a daylong coaching seminar to add to their skills.

The IVHS cross country team has a new coach this year, Billy Palma, who is originally from Youngstown. Palma is excited to start his first full-time teaching job this year, teaching second grade at Midvale Elementary. Palma ran in school at Struthers High School in Youngstown and has six years of experience as a coach.

Also assisting with the Indian Valley Schools cross country teams this year are Jimmy McPeak, high school and middle school sports assistant; volunteers Andy Krocker and Stephanie Johnson; and Indian Valley Schools Superintendent Ira Wentworth.

With the ongoing pandemic, each runner is required to bring their own container of water to practice. Before they go out for a long run, the students load their containers into racks in the back of Doug Krocker’s truck. He drives out to a midway point to meet them so everyone stays hydrated.

The IVS cross country teams will be able to take advantage of the new field house and stadium being added to the high school in Gnadenhutten. The team will use the weight room in the field house and the new track for training.

Indian Valley has no home cross country meets for middle and high school due to the lack of a designated course, but this could change. School officials will explore their options to place a course on the school campus once the stadium project is complete.

Though mandatory practice doesn’t begin until August, the excitement of the young runners was evident at a recent July voluntary practice at the high school. They have been meeting to train since June 8, and they practice four days a week. That day approximately 30 runners met for practice on a sunny, hot and humid day.

The dedication of the coaches and training they provide is something the runners appreciate.

“I haven’t missed a day,” said Dorian Dingman, 13 of Uhrichsville.

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