If you have been around middle school running for any amount of time, then you have likely heard the name of our Public School Girls Coach of the Year Kevin Von Maxey. Kevin and his wife April coach two of the most dominant middle school programs in the Country, the Tavares Middle School and Red Sea Running cross country teams. As a public school program, Tavares is constantly one of the top-performing teams in the state of Florida with state titles in 2016, 2021, and 2022. There were also multiple years where Tavares was the top public school in the state, but FLYRA had yet to create the category.
This year proved to be a special one for the Von Maxey coached teams. On 10/29 their girls team put on a clinic on how to win big at championship meets. Their number 1 runner, Cheyenne Thomas, broke the course record with a 10:22 for 3k. They proceeded to put 3 more girls in the top 8 and their number 5 finished 20th. To add to the occasion they also went down as one of the all-time best middle school girls programs in Florida history with an eye-popping 11:27 team average for 3k. The girls followed up the performance with a win at the Middle School XC National Championships in Lousiville, Kentucky. The boy’s team also went home as national champions.
We recently caught up with Coach Keving Von Maxey to talk about his season and what sets his teams apart from all the rest.
What got you into coaching, and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve coached running for almost 20 years. I am a former cross-country, track, and soccer athlete and after graduating from UCF, I started coaching high school soccer while teaching at the middle school in my hometown. I really enjoyed working with the youth level and I felt like a lot of great coaches left that age group to move to high school or college levels. I saw the opportunity to make a difference in my community at the youth level and decided to try to build a program from scratch since Lake County only had middle school volleyball and basketball at the time. I was the athletic director at Tavares Middle School and began a running club at the school. We started with 11 kids and I was able to bring together other county schools who had similar clubs and we formed cross-country as an official Lake County sport. I still coached both cross-country and soccer until about 10 years ago, when I decided to give up soccer to start the process over to build a track & field program.
What was your favorite moment from this cross-country season?
It’s difficult to pick ONE moment from any season, especially this one. Our team spends a LOT of time together, training year-round and everyone—runners, coaches, parents—is very close. We have summer running, go to running camps, off-season training, team parties, track season, etc. We have coached most of the varsity squad for 3-4 years, and our captains, Cheyenne and Jacob, since 4th grade. So, just spending time with the team, getting through the tough workouts and being around the kids is a joy every day. They are such a fun, quirky, and hard-working group and they love each other and it makes my job so much fun to be around them. If I had to pick a singular moment, it would obviously be our girls winning the state championship and our boys as runners-up. There was a moment when I was running the course to meet the kids at their checkpoints where the realization hit that this was the last time ever they would be racing for me, but in that moment I felt so much pride because I knew they had earned and deserved to stand on the podium.
What, if you are willing to share, is the secret sauce that allowed your team to get to the top of the podium this year?
Our team motto this season was “Seize the Moment.” When you can get everyone on the same page and get them to believe and buy into the training and team first concept and truly run for each other, then you have a chance to be special. I give a lot of credit to the parents in this program because we dream big and ask a lot from the parents and we have the best parents in the world, I really believe that. Whether it is waking up at 4am to drive across the state to a big race, or take their kids to off-season practices in different locations in the area, or donating their time to any of the events we do as a team, the parents are incredibly supportive and an integral part of our success. So like any successful team, the secret sauce is getting everyone on the same page all working for the same goals and having the right perspective so you can create your opportunity to “Seize the Moment.” And finally, we run our boys and girls together and consider ourselves one team and not two teams with one goal and one purpose. I’m sure Cheyenne would acknowledge that Jacob being her training partner for 5 years really pushed her and he deserves some of the credit for her individual state championships.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I just want to acknowledge and thank everyone involved with Tavares Middle School Patriots Cross-Country and Red Sea Running Club. My wife, April, is one of our head coaches and she is amazing and sacrifices a lot for me and the team. She does a lot of the work behind the scenes very few people see and I want to show my gratitude. Our assistant coach, Tony Segreto, is also a great fit for our program, someone with a lot of experience as a runner and a coach, and his positive voice and demeanor fits perfectly into our team. I truly feel blessed to coach these kids and we love them very much!