Hart’s beloved cross country coaches to retire

October 31, 2023

Hart’s beloved cross country coaches to retire

‘Twenty five years went by really fast — it’s been a lot of fun.’

Pirate News is a presentation of Hart Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — Their teams have shattered records over the years, gaining six state championships, and now Terry and Linda Tatro are retiring as the Pirate cross country coaches after this season.

A retired Michigan State Police trooper, Terry, 72, began coaching the Pirates 25 years ago, and Linda, 71, joined him in 2008.

The girls won the state championship five years in a row, which is a state record. They captured their fifth consecutive Division 3 state title in 2021. “We tied with Rockford for the most consecutive state championships in the state,” said Terry. “The girls have the lowest score recorded for any girls team in Division 3 in cross country.”

The Pirate boys team gained its first state title last season. 

Hart’s cross country state championships are the first for any sport at Hart, said Terry.

The boys team was runner up in the state meet twice before gaining the title last season.

Terry remembers his first season as coach when he told his runners: “We are going to bring the first state championship to Hart, and it’s going to be in cross country.” 

Keeping the kids working hard while still having fun is key to the success, he said. “The family atmosphere of it — everybody gets so close” is another component to the success. “We’re just like one big family.”

The Pirate cross country family is so tight knit that the athletes began calling Linda “Mama Coach” several years ago. 

Natural talent has also been a big part of the Pirates’ success. “Obviously, you have to have horses in the race, and I’ve just had some great kids come through.”

The Pirates have been recently gaining success in their sports programs after years of struggles, creating an exciting atmosphere in the halls of Hart High School. “I think it was good for the kids and the school to see that it could happen,” said Linda. “When we had our first pep assembly when we got our trophy and we put the banner up, he said to the school, ‘This isn’t just for cross country. This is for the whole school. This is your trophy.’”

Under Terry and Linda’s leadership, the Pirate runners have competed in the state finals 23 out of 25 years. They qualified at regionals last weekend to once again compete for a state title this weekend. The girls finished the race as regional champs, and the boys took second place. “We missed it one year with one point, otherwise it would have  been 24 out of 25,” said Terry.

“We’ve had some spectacular runners — we do now — but when we coach the kids, we coach them all the same,”  said Linda. 

Many of their runners come from running families, so they know what it takes to succeed, they said. Now, the coaching duo is coaching “second generation runners” — children of the athletes they have coached.

The Tatros are involved with cross country on a year-round basis. “There isn’t a day that we’re not doing something cross country,” said Terry. During retirement, they will have more time to spend with their granddaughters who live in Lowell, both of whom are athletes. They will also have more time to pursue their hobbies, complete household projects and travel.

The couple stays in close contact with many of their former Pirate runners who have graduated. “The dedication and determination that they had to have to be runners has made a huge impact on their lives in how they’ve gone on and been successful in their lives,” said Linda. “You see that building in the kids, and it’s pretty rewarding.” At least a dozen former Pirate runners are now competing at the college level.

No one has been hired yet to take their place, but that person will have some big running shoes to fill. 

“They love the kids, and kids love them,” said Hart High School Athletic Director Tim Hertzler. “They get kids motivated and excited to work hard at running. It’s going to be a huge hole for us after they retire. We’ve got a strong running community here. They’ve built a program with a strong foundation that is going to continue on.”

Moving on from the program will take some getting used to after all those years of being so heavily involved. “It’s bittersweet, because I hate to leave, but I’m ready,” said Terry. “It’s been fun — we’ve had some great, great times,” said Linda. “We just love the kids.”

“Twenty five years went by really fast — it’s been a lot of fun,” said Terry.

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