Mary Hey warned her coaching staff she was an “ugly crier.”
She did her best trying to fight back tears, but once Mechanicsburg’s cross country team started asking questions after she broke the news to them, she couldn’t hold them in anymore.
Hey officially stepped down as the Wildcats head coach after the PIAA Cross Country Championships at Hersheypark’s Parkview Course where senior Brandan Knepper, the latest in a line of top-notch runners to get guidance from Hey, finished 12th in the Class 3A state championship. Her final day as a Mechanicsburg teacher was Nov. 20.
But she informed her team a few weeks prior, in the week leading up to the Carlisle Invitational in October. Hey had accepted a position in September as a middle school counselor at Wilson Middle School but had to wait 60 days under her teacher contract before she could leave Mechanicsburg. She is at Wilson now.
“The priority was finding a position as a school counselor,” Hey said. “It was very hard to leave coaching, that wasn’t an easy decision. But at the same time, my family’s growing. I have a daughter.”
Hey served six years in the Mechanicsburg school district as a math teacher, a job she didn’t foresee herself in for the rest of her career. She got a degree in counseling in the spring and began searching for local jobs, she said. She called becoming a school counselor her “passion.”
During Hey’s four years, Mechanicsburg cross country won a handful of Mid-Penn Keystone titles and had numerous medalists in the Mid-Penn, District 3 and PIAA championships. Knepper followed the likes of Alex Tomasko (2017) and District 3 champ Morgan Cupp (Class of 2018).
She oversaw a boys team that underwent a moderate rebuild in 2018, returning one key part of the prior year’s PIAA qualifying squad: Knepper. But junior Kyle Costello emerged as a possible leader in 2019 after qualifying for states this year, and the girls team showed dramatic improvement by year’s end with freshmen Hope McKenney and Leah Snyder earning All-Sentinel Honorable Mention follow solid debuts.
“What I will miss the most are just the conversations. The kids I had to work with these past four years have just been incredible,” Hey said. “I was just truly blessed by each and every one of them.”
Hey began as a volunteer track and field coach after she started teaching in the school district, saying, “It almost fell in my lap.” A track and field runner, Hey said she was influenced by her “incredible” high school coach to one day become a coach. She just didn’t imagine it being in cross country.
Two years in she was promoted to head cross country coach.
Hey said she hopes to get back into coaching down the line. And if the offer presents itself, she would consider becoming an assistant with Carlisle’s Ed Boardman, arguably one of the most successful coaches in the Mid-Penn during his 13 years. Hey considers Boardman a “role model and a mentor.”