One of the most gratified individuals in attendance at last Saturday's Class 4-6 state cross-country finals was neither an athlete nor a coach. Well, not anymore.
For four decades, Evan Male was one of the most successful cross-country coaches in Virginia, if not the East Coast. Starting in 1973 at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Male's teams at the (then) boys-only school flourished, winning several IAC (Interstate Athletic Conference) and Alexandria City titles, particularly as the 1970's turned into the 80's. In 1987, "Buz" moved on to Langley High where he coached athletes to multiple Foot Locker finals.
It was at Langley that Male met two of the most important branches of his coaching tree, In Alex Gibby, he mentored a young runner who would go on to success at William and Mary before moving on to a collegiate coaching career.
And helping Male, in his first coaching job, was Mike Mangan. Mangan was a graduate of W.T. Woodson and anxious to sharpen his coaching chops. Under the tutelage of Male, Mangan helped with the Saxons' success before moving on to St. Stephen's/St. Agnes (just across Seminary Road, and 1.5 miles from Episcopal), and later, Lake Braddock.
From Langley, Male moved on to coach the distance runners at the University of Virginia, a school where his father had served as the head basketball coach from 1951-57. Health issues caused Male to step back, but he resurfaced a few years later at the nearby Miller School for a stint before finishing his coaching career at Albemarle, where his boys' team won an outdoor state title and 4x800 meter relay quartet set a national record with a 7:30.67 clocking. The Patriot tradition has held strong, with Adrian Lorenzoni now coaching the boys' harriers.
On Saturday, a confluence of championship performances with a Buzlink behind them. In the girls' Class 6 race, Lake Braddock toppled upstart John Champe and a favored pair of Virginia Beach schools in Ocean Lakes and Kellam to win yet another championship for the Bruins, and Mangan, whose career number of state wins is now in the double digits.
In the Class 5 boys, Albemarle, led by Will Mackenzie's second place finish, and with Lorenzoni at the helm, defeated Deep Run by 34 points to claim a championship for the Patriots.
Male's tree of coaches weren't just winning at the high school level last Saturday. In Buffalo, NY, the Harvard Crimson, coached by Gibby, won both the men's and women's championships at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Reached on Wednesday evening, Gibby's team was at the airport en route to Terre Haute, IN for this weekend's NCAA championships.
For those keeping score that gave Buz's coaching tree four championships in one day.
Lorenzoni's satisfaction at seeing his old mentor was evident as he invited Male into the elongated Albemarle post-race team photo session, with parents taking turns saying hello to "Buz."
Mangan was more personal with his remarks.
"I was so happy to see him," who has also coached a number of national-level athletes, including most recently, Kate Murphy. "I owe him my coaching success."
And Male, now in his early 70's, was taking in the scenery. In a brief moment of wistfulness, he admitted that he was simply happy to be able to make it to the meet.
But in a sense, he made the meet in more ways than one.