Newly graduated North Oconee High School alumnus Korey Dickerson learned a few things from her cross-country coach.
The best lesson she could recall was one not related to running faster. It was quite the contrary ideology. She learned how unimportant running was.
“I’ve learned from a cross-country coach that running isn’t everything,” Dickerson said. “There are other more important things in your life and he’s more than willing to support you with that as well.”
That was a goal of NOHS cross-country coach Ralph Moore. His teaching and coaching career has come to an end following the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year. Moore has been a coach and a teacher for 30 years.
He’s been at NOHS since the school opened its doors in the first half of the 2000s. Moore has been an avid lover and observer of the all things Oconee County having coached at both high schools.
Moore values the lesson he’s taught runners like Dickerson over the last few years. Moore wants running to be fun. On racedays he led the pack of runners around the trails at NOHS on his bicycle. The challenge of staying in shape to stay ahead of the increasing speed of high school runners kept Moore in tune with his own physical fitness.
“It’s gotten a little more interesting as kids have gotten faster and I’ve gotten slower,” Moore said. “It’s always been a perk or benefit. I kind of have to push myself to maintain a certain level of fitness in order to do that. That in and of itself is an important thing.”
Looking over his shoulder and seeing a runner closing the gap on him was a humbling, but fun experience.
“It’s gotten a little more interesting as kids have gotten faster and I’ve gotten slower,” Moore said. “It’s always been a perk or benefit. I kind of have to push myself to maintain a certain level of fitness in order to do that. That in and of itself is an important thing. Sometimes you look over your shoulder and somebody is gaining on you. ‘Satchel Paige said don’t look back; something might be gaining on you.’ In this case, there were runners gaining on me. Those were fun times. It allowed me to have some good times with other people.”
The multiple tragedies involving the youth and their families in Moore’s tenure at NOHS are still fresh in his mind.
“My heart is still heavy about some of the youngsters whose lives ended prematurely and parents of my runners whose lives ended prematurely,” Moore said.
Those experiences were eye opening for Moore. It changed the way he thought of his job and life.
“I think it was one of those things that made you value the moments, value the days and the seasons,” Moore said. “We’re dealing with this portion of our existence that has a finite measure. We are only given so many days. There are a number of days when we get to be out on the trails, to be in weight room and to be on the field with a Frisbee in your hand. That’s a great day. That’s a blessing and you have to recognize that.”
It’s part of the culture he’s wanted to build at NOHS. Winning is great, but experiences are relationships and the opportunity to be able to experience the things he’s experienced every day for the last 30 years is what will hang on his mantle in retirement.
“I think you have to create a spirit where that awareness spills over to the kids and that joy that you have,” Moore said. “It’s something you can share with them. I think if that has a culture-building element to it. We say ‘hey, we get to have some fun here.’...All those trophies that we were striving for are good and proper things. But those are things that are merely that, things. They have their day on display and then they’re going to wind up being tossed and recycled. You can’t let that alone give you satisfaction.”