For the past 20 years, the Sunny Hills boys and girls cross country teams have had Daniel Scott as their head coach, but because of his decision to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, the teams needed a new leader.
Enter Ashley Geisler.
Geisler was looking for a head cross country coaching job when she learned about the opening at Sunny Hills from searching prepcaltrack.com’s Coaching Vacancies tab.
“I was aware [of] how long coach Scott has been with the program and the success he brought as well,” said Geisler, who was hired in late June to guide the cross country teams this season. “I’m very open and learn from mistakes, and the athletes so far have been making the transition easy and [helping] out when needed.”
Prior to joining Sunny Hills, Geisler had some experience coaching.
“I was a camp counselor at the Jim Ryan Running Camp when it was at San Diego,” she said. “I learned how to take directions from the directors and to coach the cross country runners.”
Geisler also had experience in long-distance running, competing for JSerra Catholic High School, where she attended from 2011- 2014.
“In cross country, I was the three-time Individual Trinity League champion (2012-2014), four-time Team Trinity League Champion (2011-2014), and three-time CIF-SS Team Champion,” she said. “I earned a total of nine letters in high school, (four in cross country, four in track and field and one in soccer) and I went on to compete at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for cross country after high school.”
“I shared with my runners the background I had of being a CIF and State Champ,” Geisler said. “I wanted to show them the experience I had with the sport.”
Besides being the head coach of varsity cross country, Geisler will also work as the head coach of the Sunny Hills’ Junior Varsity track and field team. She will be working with Jacob Holloway, who was hired to coach the JV cross country teams and will be the head coach of track and field next semester.
Athletics director Jon Caffrey had much confidence in hiring both of them to take over a program that had been run by Scott for two decades.
“Coach Geisler and coach Holloway are very qualified and have a passion for cross country,” Caffrey said. “They are a great addition to our [athletics] program.”
Unlike Geisler, Holloway has no prior coaching experience.
But from being the conference champion in the 100-meter sprinting event for his high school in Kalamazoo, Mich., to being a four-year varsity letterman in track and field, Holloway said he can gain trust from his runners.
“I decided to coach after working for 13 years in web marketing at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising college,” he said. “I wanted to have a direct impact on the development of student-athletes as they progress through high school and become valuable members of our community.”
Holloway also said another factor for his transition to be a coach was his “love for daily interaction with runners and [seeing] them improve and gain confidence.”
Despite having rookie coaches this season, many on the cross country teams feel comfortable with how everything has been going since training started over the summer.
“I like both of them because they can relate to us and they make practice enjoyable,” said sophomore Eddie Kim, who is in his second year on the team. “The coaches push us more and make us do more rigorous workouts, but [they] both were really nice and love to connect with their athletes.”
Other athletes have also noticed how their new coaches have brought a different perspective to the table.
“They certainly run things differently than coach Scott, but it’s honestly nice to have a new and younger outlook on training,” said senior Lauren Lee, who is in her fourth year of cross country. “With our new coaches, it’s not the same workout on designated days, but rather they space out our speed workouts more, giving us a longer break in between. ”
One of the cross country captains said he was pleased to see the progress of the varsity and JV teams with the new coaches.
“They’re both motivating during the workouts and regularly check up on his to see how we’re feeling after the runs and workouts,” said senior co-captain Noah Barragan, who is in his fourth on the team. “Though they’re both new to coaching cross country, I believe they’re doing a fine job of preparing us for the upcoming season and that they’ll help get us into CIF.”
That’s one thing Geisler and Holloway are still maintaining from when Scott guided the boys and girls teams.
“Our main goal for this year is to keep the streak as Freeway League champions [for the boys] and show the other schools that we can dominate, despite losing runners due to transferring and graduation,” Geisler said. “Our other goal is to improve upon our CIF times and finish higher at CIF Finals by working harder than everyone else.”