By Jeff Nations
Jamie McCarty is finally coming home.
The 1993 James Wood High School graduate went off to college to run cross country and track at Hagerstown Community College and later Radford University, and just never left the southern part of the state. Since 2005, he's coached the varsity cross country program at Pulaski County and took over the track and field program a year later.
On Monday, McCarty was named as the new varsity cross country coach at Sherando.
"Obviously I'm super-excited," McCarty said during a telephone interview Monday. "It's still home. I haven't lived there for 15 years since I moved down here, but it'll always be home."
McCarty takes over at Sherando for Tim Ritter, who stepped down as head cross country coach after 10 years on the job. It's actually a year later than Ritter had planned to coach.
"Tim came back last year because he knew we needed somebody," Sherando athletic director Jason Barbe said. "He coached nine years then stepped down, but came back and gave us another year.
"Tim has been a great coach for us. I can't express our gratitude enough for all he's done for us."
Barbe thinks the Warriors found a quality replacement in McCarty, who has twice been named the River Ridge District coach of the year while guiding the Cougars.
"You got out and search for the best possible candidate," Barbe said. "Jamie is a great coach and a local guy, as well, and that's always a plus."
McCarty hopes to help continue the long tradition of helping develop some of the state's top distance runners in the Shenandoah Valley, and fondly recalls the first-rate coaching he got at James Wood from Rusty McDonald, Dave Weir and Bill Stewart.
"We've established a pretty good program down here," McCarty said of Pulaski County. "We don't quite get the numbers. If you look at any of the four Frederick County teams at the start of the year, you'll see really good turnout."
The Pulaski County experience was about building up a program -- McCarty thinks Sherando is already in a good place thanks to Ritter.
"Coach Ritter did a great job," McCarty said. "It's an established program and they've got some great kids."
McCarty was hired just to coach the cross country program, although he does plan to at least volunteer as an assistant coach during the track seasons. Tom Grim is the head coach of Sherando's track and field teams during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Ritter said he made the decision to leave for health reasons, after having knee surgery about a year and a half ago.
"I'd been thinking about it for a few years," Ritter said. "I'm not getting any younger, and I'm not able to run with the kids like I used to. You need to be able to get out in the woods and on the trails with them, and I'm not able to do that like I used to.
"In cross country I guess you don't have to run with them, but that's always been my coaching style. The knee surgery has put a little damper on how I wanted to coach."
Ritter will still coach the distance runners during indoor and outdoor track this year and next, and then after that plans to "play it by ear a little bit."