June 15, 2005

Allie Moreland's Father's Day tribute

Sports Columnist

Editorís Note: June is always a big month for the senior athletes at area high schools.
There is graduation and the end of their scholastic careers - plus Fatherís Day. During previous Junes, Tom Williams has turned over his column to Stephanie Gaitley, Matt Woolley, Jeff Boyd, Allison Rinck, Tracey LeFever, Shaune McLaughlin, Erik Geisinger and Doug Colman, among others, to write about their fathers.

This week, Ocean City High School senior Allie Moreland - a four-year all star in track, three-year all star in cross country and South Jersey scholar-athlete in the Courier-Post - writes about her father, Bill, who has coached boys cross country since 1979 and girls track the past six seasons at OCHS.

This Fatherís Day I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to my father, Bill Moreland.

Words alone cannot describe all that he has done for me over the past 17 years of my life - he has not only been my father but has also been my coach, my teacher and my role model.

Throughout my life I have grown up as the middle child of my family and I have always joked that because my dad is also a middle child we understand each other. As my final season under the direction of my father comes to a close, I really do believe that this is true. Itís not always easy having your father as your dad, teacher and coach but, after experiencing these situations over the last four year, I would have had it no other way.

Ever since the time I was an infant I have been around the sport of running. My family is involved in a local running club that sponsors ďFun RunsĒ in the summer. I used to look forward to these Thursday night runs because my dad would run the mile with me. It took me quite some time to work up to the full four laps but, each time I tried it, my dad was right along side me. He always would encourage me to try to go a little bit longer or a little bit faster. It did not take long before this mentality stuck with me.

Going into high school, I felt as though I needed to live up to my sister, Colsey, and her reputation - she was the Cape May County Champion, the Cape-Atlantic League Champion and one of the best runners on the team. I was coming from middle school where I was not even close to being the best runner, let alone ever winning something. It was my dad who encouraged me to go out and run for myself and not worry about places or times because, if I ran for the joy and fun of running, the rest would fall into place. He was the reason I enjoyed running so much. My dad made practicing worthwhile because of his encouragement.

During the course of my first high school season, he helped me lower my times and my best races were those where I was able to run with my sister for part of the race. Even if I was only able to stay with her in the beginning of the race, it made me happy because I knew I was making my dad proud because I was working hard.

To most, Bill Moreland comes off as a quiet but knowledgeable man, but I know him as a funny, inspirational and, most of all, loving man. Whether it be cracking jokes at our track practices or giving a speech to either pump us up (before a race) or trying to make us feel better (after a bad race), he has gone above and beyond what a coach is. My dad is there at practice Monday through Friday, plus the all-day Saturday meets and the late-night rides with a bus-load of girls singing at the top of their lungs. Yet he continuously loves the sport and inspires each of us to become her best.

I owe nearly all of my running accomplishments to my father. If it were not for him, I would never have begun running, nor would I have strived to become what I am. I cannot describe the feeling of successfully finishing a race and seeing the proud look of a father. That is what my father does for me. Good race or bad race, he has always been there for me. Whether itís advice on how to run a better race next time or a high-five, he has been a huge factor in my high school sports career.

He has also supported all of the decisions I have made. One that he did not particularly care for is my love of dance. Each year, for the past 14 years, I have taken dance lessons two nights a week and have had an annual recital. The recital always happened to fall on the week of the track sectional or state meet. This meant a very long day for my dad - all day at the meet, then a long dance recital. Though he always joked about skipping my recital each year, he never missed one. It is examples like this that make me love and respect my dad even more and I thank him for accepting my decisions.

This summer I am heading off to the United States Naval Academy where I hope to continue to make my father proud. Despite the fact that he will not be at all of my meets, his encouraging words and advice will never leave me. Because of his guidance over the past 17 years, I feel as though I am fully qualified and capable to go out into the world and apply what I have learned.

Thank you, Dad, for everything you have sacrificed for me, and for all of the advice and support you have given me. I love you immensely and wish you a Happy Fatherís Day!

Read more of Tom Williams' columns