Cross-country is a sport that welcomes anyone willing to show up and work hard, regardless of experience or skill. At Eastlake High School, husband-and-wife coaches of 23 years Troy and Jody Anderson have created a cross-country program that helps students find a community and their own athletic potential.
At Eastlake, anyone who wants to join cross-country can. While the skill required to join may be low, the dedication required to stay is high. Team members attend two-hour practices for five days a week in addition to once or twice-weekly meets.
Boys head coach Troy Anderson, 46, and girls head coach Jody Anderson, 45, know they are asking a lot of their athletes. They also know that commitment creates results.
In 2022, the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association (WSCCA) ranked Eastlake as one of the top 20 boys and girls combined cross-country programs in the state. The girls’ team has won the state title three times. The combined team has appeared at state 22 times under the Andersons and made history in 2022 when both the boys and girls finished on the podium.
In addition to bringing home team wins, Troy Anderson was chosen as the WSCCA coach of the year in 2008 and again in 2021, achievements he shares with his wife wholeheartedly.
The Andersons joined Eastlake’s coaching staff as newlyweds in 2001, when Troy Anderson was 24 and Jody was 23.
“From day one, Jody has always been there, and we have been together ever since,” Troy Anderson said.
In college, Troy Anderson studied psychology with a focus on adolescents. As a former competitive high school runner, he knows running at a high level takes mental toughness and hard work. Coaching cross-country allows him to combine his psychology and running backgrounds to coach teens to excellence.
Reflecting on her life as a runner, Jody Anderson relates to students who might come to the sport inexperienced. She credits her success to both her high school coach and her dad, who is also an accomplished runner.
“I wasn’t initially a fast runner,” she said, but “they inspired me to stick with it, work hard, and do my best.” Today, she aims to offer that same opportunity to her athletes.
The Andersons want cross-country to be a community where all student-athletes can belong and work toward their personal best—both at Eastlake and beyond.
Parents of the Andersons’ former athletes share the positive community and coaching their kids experienced on the team.
Sara Pedersen, 46, whose son Ethan now runs for Liberty University, appreciates the team’s sense of community and support, regardless of skill or ability.
“The athletes are very supportive,” Pedersen said. “The team comes together to cheer on every runner, embracing and encouraging them, regardless of their abilities.”
Andi Zahn, 58, whose son Noah now runs for Lehigh University, shared that Eastlake’s program was both competitive and supportive.
“The program was such a positive experience, especially having a competitive sport with a coaching style that is very positive and encouraging,” Zahn said.
Kristi-Jo Lynn’s sons David and Christopher both ran under the Andersons. Today, they run for St. Olaf College and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, respectively.
“The [Eastlake] coaches ensured athletes were coached up to their potential to experience challenges that come with running,” Lynn said.
The Andersons attribute the team’s success to the collaboration and support of their coaching staff. The coaches include Nancy Pixler, Dirk Huebner, Matthew Pirie, Thomas Kids, Nate Pendleton, Eric Sigmar, and Scott Paul.
“Our team of phenomenal coaches have a passion for working with today’s youth,” Troy Anderson said, emphasizing that Eastlake could not have a successful program without them.
“Running is a tough sport, mentally and physically, but what I really love about it is the training it takes to get there, creating bonds that last past high school,” Jody Anderson said.
Their journey from high school running to coaching cross-country is crafted with hands of compassion and commitment. Over their 23 years of coaching together, the Andersons have built an inclusive program and a close-knit community. Students in their program do not just run, they find friends and support, making the Andersons’ story an important part of Eastlake High School’s athletics.
To learn more about Eastlake’s cross-country program and coaches, you can visit the team’s website.