By LANCE CATCHINGS
Liberty Hill High School’s Head Cross Country Coach Kim Holt is a former athlete, and, like many former athletes, it was her love of sports that drew her to coaching more than 20 years ago.
Holt, who’s been a coach in Liberty Hill for 21 years, celebrated her 10-year anniversary as the Head Cross Country Coach this past season at the State Championship Meet. If you had asked her 10 years ago whether or not she would still be Liberty Hill’s Head Cross Country Coach today, she probably would have said no, but the hard work from her runners and the satisfaction of watching them improve from one year to the next has kept her coming back year after year.
“Each year, you kind of evaluate and ask yourself if you’re ready to do it again,” she laughed. “It can be tough during the season. You have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. You practice early in the morning. It’s tough on the coaches and it’s tough on the kids. I ask myself each year if it is something I want to do. Each year, I come back because I see the kids from the previous year. I want to see them improve, and they want to improve. That is what keeps me coming back.”
Holt’s high school days were spent running on the track, and in the gym playing basketball. In college, she continued her basketball playing career at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Once she graduated from A&M Kingsville, Holt began student-teaching at Calallen Middle School, after which she was hired on full-time. In 1997, Holt decided she wanted to be closer to her hometown of Caddo Mills, which eventually brought her to Liberty Hill more than 20 years ago.
Holt’s comments regarding why she’s remained in Liberty Hill for so long are similar to what many other tenured Panther coaches have said of their own experiences. Even when other job opportunities arise, the quality of the Liberty Hill community and the children they raise makes it nearly impossible to leave them behind.
“When I first got here, I never thought I would be here for 20 years,” Holt said. “It’s the type of kids that we have here that make it so tough to leave. You could find places where you could probably get paid more, but they don’t have as good of kids as we have here. All schools have some kids that may act up, but for the most part, they are all pretty good kids here. I think that positive atmosphere is what keeps me coming back.”
10 years later, Holt still remembers the day she accepted her current position as Head Cross Country Coach. After coaching basketball and track in Liberty Hill for the previous 11 years, the job essentially fell in her lap. While the position wasn’t initially in her long-term plans, the success of her runners over the years has validated the athletic department’s decision to make the offer.
“Ten years ago, the cross country coach wanted to get out of coaching, and they asked if I wanted to do it,” Holt said. “That’s how it happened. After I started, it was something I liked and the kids were doing well, so I just never stopped.”
This season marked Liberty Hill’s ninth straight appearance at the UIL State Cross Country Meet by either a team or an individual, each of which Holt has played a major role in. That continued level of success is one of the reasons she’s stuck around as Head Coach for a decade.
“There has been lots of success over the years, and I have enjoyed it,” she said. “The kids run hard at the meets, and seeing them improve and work hard is a big part of it for me. It is good to see them work towards something and try to accomplish their goals. There will always be times where you come up short, but I enjoy seeing them trying to become successful.”
Over the past 10 seasons, Holt has coached many talented athletes, which she said has built a foundation for success with past, present, and future Panther runners.
“You hope to have good athletes, because it helps to push the whole team,” Holt said. “Since I have been here, we’ve had some. They can do things some of the other runners can’t do, because they are that talented. McKynzie King, Mitchell Germann, Susie Kemper and Danielle Riemann were some of the faster runners that have come through our program. It’s awesome when you have those kinds of runners on the team, but sometimes you don’t.”
With so many accolades over the past several years, Holt and her fellow coaches are always keeping an eye on the younger runners to evaluate talent for the next season. So far, the process has worked for them, and being able to watch their development from junior high through high school, both on and off the track, has been a rewarding experience for Holt.
At the end of the day, though, it’s the meets that keep Holt excited and motivated. Through thick and thin, the one constant is the feeling of a race day.
“I love seeing the kids compete,” Holt said. “The races are exciting, and it’s exciting to see how hard they go. They go as hard as they can, and it’s fun when they hit a (personal record) and they’re happy.”
Despite all the changes that have taken place in Liberty Hill over the past 20-plus years, one thing that’s remained the same is Holt’s commitment to Panther athletes.