Brian Kopack was named the new cross country coach at Delphos St. John's this week taking over the program from Steve Hellman who announced his retirement last month. Hellman will be coaching two of his four children, Kitty and Hank, along with his wife Amy. (DHI Media/Larry Heiing)
Brian Kopack was named the new cross country coach at Delphos St. John's this week taking over the program from Steve Hellman who announced his retirement last month. Hellman will be coaching two of his four children, Kitty and Hank, along with his wife Amy. (DHI Media/Larry Heiing)

DELPHOS — In sports, it’s a dream come true to go out on top.

That’s exactly what Delphos St. John’s head cross country coach Steve Hellman did when he announced his retirement last month. After leading the Blue Jay long distance program for the last 10 years, Hellman’s high school girl’s team made history by qualifying for the State meet for the first time in school history.

Hellman graduated from St. John’s in 1985 then went on to run at the collegiate level for Bluffton College. He came back to his high school alma mater to take over the cross country program in 2010 from Jeff Bockey who ironically also coached for 10 years.

“I took the coaching job because I was afraid that the school was going to cut the cross country program due to low participation” explained Hellman. “Plus my son Aaron was going to be a freshman and I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity to run for St. John’s like I did. My high school coach Dave Alt gets a lot of credit for instilling the love of cross country in me and inspiring me to become a head coach.”

“My proudest accomplishment during my 10 years as coach was growing the cross country program from only five runners in my first season to 31 in my last” continued Hellman. “What’s more amazing is that our number of runners increased while the enrollment at St. John’s, like other schools, decreased. I had no intention of sticking around this long but we developed a plan to improve as a team and that dream was fulfilled when the girls qualified for State last year which was another proud accomplishment. It was tough to leave knowing the talent we have coming back but I got to share my love of the sport with a whole new generation which is what coaching is all about.”

Taking over the cross country program at St. John’s will be Brian Kopack. Kopack ran for the Butler Bulldogs cross country team in college and is still the reigning Butler Invitational individual champion because the race was discontinued the year after he won it in 1992. He is still an avid runner competing in many races since college including the Boston Marathon.

Kopack and his wife Amy became part of Hellman’s staff in 2013 as assistant coaches when their oldest of four children, Caroline entered junior high.

“Familiarity with the team will make the transition in coaches smooth” commented Kopack. “We hope to build on the momentum that has built up over the last few seasons to make our school and community proud. We have nearly 30 runners coming back with only two seniors, so Coach Hellman built up a solid program and the future looks bright for St. John’s cross country. Our goal too is have our team visible around town being involved in something else besides cross county.”

“Another goal for the runners is to develop a training regiment to keep them healthy” explained Kopack. “We want to teach team that there is never a finish line in cross country because there is always room for improvement.”