Getting To Know … Katherine Yost

Norcross grad Katherine Yost, fresh off a record-breaking running career at Georgia College, is a first-year cross country coach at her alma mater. (Photo: Will Hammock)

It seems like only yesterday that Katherine Yost was piling up championships and honors for Norcross High School’s cross country team. In reality, it was about five years ago — still a relatively short time to transform from the Blue Devils’ star runner to their new head coach. But it didn’t take long for the multi-time Gwinnett County and region champion and Daily Post All-County runner and recent Georgia College and State University grad to come back home to her roots. Yost recently spoke with staff writer David Friedlander about a variety of subjects, including coming back to her alma mater to coach so quickly in her professional career, her running accomplishments at Norcross and at GCSU and her passion for ultimate frisbee

DF: I know it has to be a thrill for you to be back at the high school you graduated from to coach, right?

KY: It’s great. I love the Norcross community, the school especially. I don’t want to say those were the glory days, because I hope that’s not as high as I go, but they were awesome, and I love coming back. I’d say half the (faculty and) staff are the same, and it’s good to see everybody.

DF: When you went off to college, was coaching something you had in mind as a career, or did that path kind of evolve in that direction?

KY: I have literally always been called “Coach” by my friends because I get really competitive, even when I’m doing for-fun sports. I always thought about it. I really didn’t do (anything about) it until my senior year of college. I was the girls coach for my ultimate frisbee team, and I also had my internship, (which) was (helping coach) track for (local Milledgeville) middle and high school teams, and I just loved it so much. I think I’ve always thought I could be (a coach). I don’t know if I’m going to be the best, but I think it’s something I’ve been meaning to do.

DF: It’s still got to be a bit of a challenge knowing that you’re only five years older than your seniors. How is that dynamic working out so far?

KY: I think it’s going to be kind of — I mean, all the kids are great. They’re all very respectful and nice, so I hope that stays. I haven’t met everybody yet, since it’s such a big team. I’ve only met, like, half the team, and they seem respectful and look up to me and (boys) coach (Nathan Brooks). He’s also 24, so he’s young, too. But I think it will be fine. It does kind of play a role, but I think it also is working as a benefit to me because I can kind of relate to them. I was pretty much just in high school. I did what they were doing. So if something gets too hard or they have an issue, I’ve been there literally. So I think it will be fine. I want to be their coach. I don’t want to be too tough, but hard in my way. But I also kind of want to be their friend. I want them to trust me with their personal stuff, too, not just with cross country. I think that will be easier, especially, with the girls being close to my age.

DF: In case any of our readers lost track with you after you graduated from Norcross, you did have an outstanding college career at GCSU, including being the first runner in the history of the program to qualify for the NCAA Division II national meet. How great a feeling was it to make that kind of history?

KY: It was awesome. I mean, I kind of miss it. Yeah, I was the first (Bobcats runner) to qualify for nationals. I went twice. I didn’t even know I’d qualified the first time until my coach came up to me and was like, “Hey, you’re going to nationals.’ It was a huge deal because it had never happened before. It was pretty exciting. I didn’t know how to react. I reacted later, but at the time, I was like, ‘Oh OK, this is great.” I’m going to miss that a lot.

DF: So while you’re not competing on that level anymore, are you still running in any area competitions like the Peachtree Road Race or Atlanta Marathon?

KY: No, I don’t think I’ll ever do a marathon. My knees are pretty bad. I’ve actually never done a half-marathon, and I’ve only run the Peachtree twice. I need to get back on that because I love the Peachtree. It’s really fun. I promised one of my college teammates that I’d run a half-marathon with her at some point. I’m kind of regretting that decision. But I’m pretty huge into ultimate frisbee right now. I don’t do as much running. I’ll definitely run with the team as much as I can and do for-fun 5Ks. I was thinking about joining the Atlanta Track (Club), but I got pretty busy this summer looking for a job. Maybe some day.

DF: You’ve mentioned ultimate frisbee twice now. Is it any easier on your knees than running?

KY: (Laughs) no, but it’s way more fun (than running), I think. I just push through the pain at that point.

DF: Going back to the small age difference between you and your runners, a lot of the older ones might remember seeing you run in high school. How much instant credibility do you think that will that give you with them, considering that you’ve sent an example for success?

KY: I’m not shooting down how things were done when I wasn’t here, but I believe Coach (Scott) Williams was the best coach that’s ever been here for cross country, hands down. He was a hard ass. He was strict and he didn’t put up with any crap, and I don’t want to put up with that kind of stuff either. It’s going to be hard being a brand new (coach), and they know that I’m brand new, but we had a (team) pasta dinner (Friday) night and I told them it’s going to be a change. It’s going to be a big learning curve for everybody, but I think it’s going to be a positive change. So far, I wouldn’t say any of their times are anything to brag about, but we have so much potential, and I think we just need kind of more structure. I feel like a lot of people were just kind of running what they wanted to run and where they wanted to run and whatever pace they wanted to. It’s about to get a lot different.

DF: So it sounds like you’ve got an initial plan for the team. What are your long term plans for your career? Is high school coaching what you have in mind years down the road?

KY: I’ve literally wanted to be a P.E. teacher since elementary school. So I’m kind of crushing on my dream right now. I definitely have to get my master’s degree in P.E. and health education and all that, so that’s the next step. I honestly can’t imagine finding something that’s more perfect for me. I’ve obviously never been a teacher before, so we’ll see how that goes, but I think this is going to be great. … I’m just so happy.

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Graduated from GSU in 1990. Have worked in sports journalism for the past 28 years, covering a variety of sports at the Gwinnett Daily News, AJC, Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser and Marietta Daily Journal before returning to Gwinnett at the Post in 2007.

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