Twelve years ago, Tammy and David Townsend found themselves at the unexpected crossroads of coaching cross country for Collierville Middle. Little did they know, this decision would set the stage for an incredible journey. With no personal experience in cross country, the journey began. Despite their reservations, they took the leap into coaching with the support of other great coaches.

Over the past 12 years, they've had the privilege of coaching more than 500 student athletes. "Coaching cross country proved to be more than just guiding athletes in running. It became about relationships, achievements, and personal growth. The impact on life skills and the joy of belonging to a community bound by a shared love for the sport became the driving force."

Celebrating victories goes beyond winning races. The unity of the Collierville and West Collierville teams during practices has been a defining experience. Witnessing student athletes training as one family, supporting each other, and celebrating accomplishments has been the pinnacle of our coaching journey. Come race day, the friendly unity transforms into healthy competition. The teams give their all, competing fiercely yet respecting the bond they've forged.

"As coaches, we can proudly boast of two individual cross country state champions and one state champion team. These triumphs are not just about the titles but about the perseverance, dedication, and spirit of the athletes we've had the privilege to coach. As we reflect on these 12 years, it's clear that our journey extends far beyond coaching cross country.

It's a story of passion, unity, and the enduring impact of sport on the lives of countless young athletes. The extra mile we've run as coaches has been well worth it, and the journey continues, one stride at a time."

Thank you to University High coach, Colton Cockrum, for sharing their MYA story!

In only its second year in existence, the University High School cross country programs qualified for the State championships. This was made possible because we have had a pipeline of runners who started running during their elementary school years eight or nine years ago when MYA was first created. In fact, back then I think that Campus School was one of the original schools to participate in MYA cross country/track (Campus School started with five runners).

By exposing our elementary kids to the joy of running, being on a team, and attempting something difficult…it created this really cool opportunity for them to pursue their running passion in middle school and high school. Our middle school program routinely has over 40 on the team and our high school had 24 freshmen/sophomores on the team

As I look back on our early days of our cross country program, I not only notice that many of those kids who ran with us in 3-5 grade went on to run with us in high school, but also, many of those kids are runners for other cross country programs. Our original campus school teams have kids who now run for University High School, Westminster Academy, Crosstown High School, St Marys, MUS, and Lausanne. And at the ground level in all of this is the work that MYA has done to make running accessible to kids in our city and county.

If MYA hadn’t taken the initiative to create these opportunities, running would not have expanded to the degree in which it has. I don’t even think that we’d have a high school or middle school team if MYA hadn’t created the structure for running and coordinating meets.

I have had the extreme blessing of coaching elementary (Campus School), middle school (University Middle), and High School (University High) cross country and track. We’ve partnered with MYA to provide opportunities for kids to run. I am so thankful for MYA and its mission. Truly, this is an organization that understands the importance of teamwork, competition, teaching healthy habits, and creating opportunities for kids to become lifetime runners. Thank you, MYA!!