Jerome Loy was an out-of-shape assistant football coach at Jefferson Forest High School in 1984 when he decided to start running with some members of the school’s boys and girls cross country teams.
That first step led him to become their head coach.
And the pace he set has taken him into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame.
Loy, who retired from coaching after the 2014 season, will be one of 11 new members — six athletes, three coaches and two contributors — in the 2018 class, which will be inducted June 24 in Charlottesville.
“I’m very humbled by it all,” Loy said. “Being retired, I still see the athletes but I don’t have to get on the bus and make sure they all get home.”
Loy, a Cleveland native who played football at Ashland (Ohio) College, took the Cavaliers a long way during his coaching career.
Loy coached six Jefferson Forest programs — boys and girls cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track — to a combined 59 Seminole District titles, 31 regional crowns and eight VHSL state championships from 1984-2014.
“I was just a fast phys-ed teacher,” Loy said. I started running with the cross country team. The next year I was the coach. I fell in love with that sport.”
Jefferson Forest won VHSL championship in girls cross country state titles (2000, 2001, 2013, 2014), girls outdoor track (1999, 2000, 2001) and boys indoor track (1992) under Loy.
Loy also spent 15 years as Jefferson Forest’s head forensics coach, and was an assistant coach for JF’s competition cheer team that won a Group AA state title in 2003.
“My daughter was on the team,” Loy said. “The head coach, Tammi Moore, knew I was always getting on kids about being in shape, so she asked me if I would come aboard and be their strength and conditioning coach.
“I said, ‘Absolutely, but they’re not going to like what I ask them to do.’ I bought them all sets of dumbbells, so they all ended up running and lifting weights, doing little obstacle courses and getting strong and fast. They hated me, but when they won the state title they said, ‘Now we understand.’ ”
Loy was recognizable later in his coaching career for the variety of unique hats he would wear during state cross country meets.
Anything for motivation, right?
“It was probably just me being goofy, wearing a different hat for each race,” he said.
“Then we started giving the winner of each race a crazy hat. It was just something to make things different and interesting. We just tried to make it fun. I’d get parents to host a practice. We’d have parties afterward. We’d go swimming. We’d have guys and girls on the team, and some of those people are married now.”
Loy coached outstanding athletes at JF, including Shannon Saunders, Jennifer Templeton and Kristin Saunders, who finished 1-2-3 in the 3,200-meter run in the 2001 Group AA state meet when the Cavaliers won the title.
The 2001 team also was led by sprint star Ebony Foster, who later won ACC titles and set North Carolina State school records in the 60-meter hurdles and 100-meter hurdles.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be talking,” Loy said. “I was lucky to have some great girls, especially, to come through. But I had to convince a lot of them, too.
“The Saunders [twins] were soccer players. Ebony, we kicked her off the track team because of her attitude. Then Coach [Robert] Butler and I sat there and prayed she would come back and apologize ... and she did the next day.”
Loy will join former football star Anthony Poindexter (2013) as the only Jefferson Forest inductees into the state’s high school shrine.
He plans a late-spring trip to Michigan before the induction ceremony.
Before then, he can be found in a familiar spot: holding the starter’s pistol at the Seminole District track meet Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’re going to come back for [the ceremony], but that’s OK because it’s an excuse to see our grandson.”
Joining Loy in the 2018 Hall of Fame class are:
- Sharon Couch,
- who won five events and set four state records in the 1987 Group A outdoor track meet at Amelia County High before becoming a seven-time ACC champion and two-time U.S. Olympian, competing in the long jump and 100-meter hurdles.
- Sheena Johnson,
- who won 15 state track and field titles and four individual national championships at Gar-Field High in Woodbridge before winning two NCAA championships at UCLA and a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles.
- Meghan McCarthy,
- who won 16 individual VHSL championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track at James Robinson High in Fairfax before leading Providence to the 1995 NCAA Women’s cross country championship.
- Francena McCorory,
- who won 15 VHSL girls track titles and set national records in the indoor 300 (36.96 seconds) and indoor 400 (51.93) at Bethel High in Hampton before winning two NCAA titles at Hampton University, two Olympic gold medals in the 1,600 relay and setting an American record in the 400 indoor (50.54).
- Charles Stukes,
- who starred in football, basketball, baseball and track at Crestwood High in Chesapeake — which is now part of Oscar Smith High — and was an all-CIAA defensive back at Maryland State and later played on two Super Bowl teams with the Baltimore Colts.
- Jasmine Thomas,
- who scored 2,598 career points at Oakton High in Vienna before becoming a second-team Associated Press All-American at Duke and a first-round draft selection in the WNBA, where she currently plays for the Connecticut Storm.
- Jack Baker,
- who coached boys basketball for 41 years, baseball for 20 years and golf for 15 seasons at Maury High in Norfolk, ranking No. 2 with 746 basketball victories along with 19 district titles and six region crowns.
- Jean Gillespie,
- who coached girls basketball, volleyball and track and field at Rich Valley and Northwood high schools in Smyth County, compiling 470 basketball victories including a 1983 Group A title at Rich Valley and two state runner-up finishes in basketball and one in volleyball.
- Mike Ingrao,
- who was a VHSL wrestling official for 42 years, a state softball official for seven years and a VHSL wrestling rules interpreter for nine seasons.
- Bob Stratton,
- who spent 34 years in public education including terms as athletic director at Atlee, Patrick Henry-Ashland and Hanover high schools, directing more than 100 district, region and state tournaments.