By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
COVINGTON — What started as a way to help out turned in to a ride local cross country coach Doug Foster never could have imagined.
And it is not over yet.
After coaching at Covington, Piqua and Russia, Foster will be reuniting with one of his former runners Michael Meredith at Milton-Union.
Meredith coaches the high school boys and Foster will coach the girls.
“Michael (Meredith) and the athletic director Mark Lane approached me about it last spring,” Foster said. “It was a really tough decision. Sometimes, you just know when the time is right for a change. Michael and his brother Benji are like sons to me. It is a chance to coach Michael’s daughter Sophie.”
Foster never ran cross country in high school.
But, after getting his degree in education from Bowling Green State University, Foster came to Covington High School.
“I had started to get into running a little in 10Ks and things like that, so I was familiar with it,” Foster said. “In 1982, Jim (Meyer, the Covington cross country coach) left one year to get his master’s.
“So, he asked me if I would coach the team for one year and I agreed. We had a lot of success. We had Scott Fisher, who was the regional champion and went on to place seventh at state. It was a lot of fun. After that, I continued as an assistant coach,” Foster said.
When Meyer left in 1989 to be Troy’s school psychologist, the opportunity presented itself.
Foster, who was also girls basketball coach at Covington for several years, took over the program, starting an amazing run.
In 28 years coaching cross country, Foster has amassed a record of 6,264-1,851, a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent.
“Jim (Meyer) asked me if I would take over the program, and I did,” Foster said. “Jim laid an excellent foundation for me. He was very good at communicating with the kids and I learned a lot from him. I have to be honest with you, I never expected to have the success I have had as a coach.”
And he also knew how to prepare for the opportunity, seeking coaching legends Dale Garman (Miami East) and Kenny Beard (Milton-Union) for knowledge.
“That was back at a time when coaches would help each other,” Foster said. “When I was an assistant, I talked to those two guys a lot about different things. Those two guys really helped me a lot and gave me an understanding of what I needed to do.”
Foster coached Covington boys and girls from 1989-2001.
During his time as boys coach, the Buccs won eight straight league titles, beginning in 1994 and he was CCC Coach of the Year all eight years.
The Buccs were Dayton D-III district champions in 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2000, and district runner-ups in 1993, 1997 and 2001.
They qualified for regionals 12 times and were regional runner-ups in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
The Buccs qualified for state six times and finished as high as fourth, in 2001.
On the girls side, the Lady Buccs won the CCC title in 1999 and 2000, with Foster being named Coach of the Year both times.
They were district champions in 1999 and district runner-ups in 2000 and 2001.
The Lady Buccs were regional qualifiers in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, with the 1999 team making history as the first Covington girls team to qualify for state in cross country, finishing 14th.
“I was blessed with great runners and great parents and assistant coaches,” Foster said. “Michael Meredith was my assistant for eight years and was instrumental in our success. He left in 2001 to go to Milton-Union and follow Kenny Beard, who was a coaching legend, as coach. I have to thank (athletic director) Bob Huelsman for giving me the opportunity to do what I wanted with the program to get it to that level.”
After 2001, Foster stepped away from the sport to watch is son Colin play basketball and baseball for Russia, where Foster was the freshman boys coach.
“In 2005, I saw Piqua was looking for a boys cross country coach and I got the job,” Foster said.
The Indians had a record of 58-46, Piqua’s first winning season in a number of years.
A year later, Foster became Russia boys and girls cross country coach.
“We had a really young team at Piqua and we had a really good year,” Foster said. “It was a great group of kids who worked hard and were willing to work to get better, which is what you want. If I have one regret, it was that I wasn’t able to stay longer at Piqua. I felt like we were poised to have an outstanding team.
“But, I knew I was stepping into a gold mine at Russia. They had a lot of success, they just hadn’t got to the next level,” he said.
Which is exactly where Foster took them.
With the boys, he had a record of 2,071-519 and with the girls, he had a record of 1,904-446 — both winning percentages over 80 percent.
With the boys, Foster won seven SCAL titles, won the district title eight times in nine years in one stretch and the Raiders were district runner-up once.
Russia was regional champion three times and regional runner-up twice, qualifying for state nine times in a 10-year stretch.
The boys had back-to-back third and fourth place finishes at state in 2007 and 2008.
With the girls, Foster won eight SCAL titles, won five district titles, three regional titles, was regional runner-up and qualified for state seven times.
The Lady Raiders finished in the top five at state three times, with a third-place finish in 2014.
“I have to give Brad Francis and Vern Rosenbeck a lot of credit for letting me run the program the way I wanted and changing the schedule to help us (get to the next level),” Foster said. “Again, I had so many great runners, parents and assistant coaches.
“That is what made the decision to leave so tough. But, I just felt like there were some things beyond my control.”
And while Foster has coached many runners that went on to success at the next level, Katie and Emily Borchers certainly standout, both competing at the NCAA nationals.
“Katie (Borchers) was a two-time national qualifier in cross country at Ohio State,” Foster said. “She has nine school records in track at OSU — five in individual events and four in relays. She was a two-time All-American in cross country was Big Ten champion in the indoor 800 once and outdoor 800 twice. Emily (Borchers) has the second fastest cross country time at the University of Dayton and has the indoor 5k record. She was the A-10 steeplechase champion the last two years and this spring, she qualified for nationals in the steeplechase.”
Throughout his amazing run, one constant has been the support of his wife Mary Beth.
“I couldn’t have done this without her,” Foster said. “She has put up with me and my coaching all these years. I can’t thank her enough. When I went to Russia, the plan was to coach for five years. But, we just had so many talented runners, it was hard to leave. It has definitely been an amazing run.”
And as he prepares for what he expects to be the last stop in that journey, he knows it is not over yet.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org
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