Frisco ISD Focus Magazine May 2018 - Page 41

Heritage High School Coach and Teacher Keeps Students on Track Olympic gold medalist Chryste Gaines shows students what can be gained through focus and hard work. Chryste Gaines, who won two Olympic medals as a sprinter, said she was fortunate to have great teachers and coaches growing up and that she wants to be the same kind of mentor at Heritage High School. When Chryste Gaines helped the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team win a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, it fulfilled a goal she set as a 5-year-old. But for Gaines, who now teaches and coaches at Heritage High School, there was a twist. Her original goal was to be like Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast who won five gold medals and in 1976 received the first perfect score in Olympic competition. “I remember watching Nadia Comaneci and thinking, ‘Oh, I can do that’ without having ever taken one gymnastics lesson,” Gaines said. “It was a lot harder than it looked on television.” A future in gymnastics didn’t happen, but Gaines found another sport in which to excel. She became a star sprinter, first at South Oak Cliff High School and then at Stanford University, before starting a long professional career that included winning two Olympic medals. In addition to the gold medal in 1996, Gaines was part of the 4x100 team that won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. “I had excellent coaches at every level, and that’s not true for everybody,” Gaines said. “Some people went from coach to coach and place to place, but I was fortunate to have had knowledgeable coaches in high school and college and my professional career.” Those mentors helped inspire Gaines to become a teacher and coach. She is now in her fourth year at Heritage, where she teaches U.S. and world history and is coach of the girls track and field and cross country teams. Whether the subject is academics or athletics, Gaines teaches Heritage students that commitment and discipline are keys to success. Those are some of the lessons that Gaines learned at South Oak Cliff, where she blossomed as a student and athlete. Her performances in track and field were recognized in January when she was selected as one of 10 charter members of the Dallas ISD Athletics Hall of Fame. Gaines said her experience as a student and athlete helps her as a teacher and coach. “I know exactly what they’re going through,” she said. “You’ve got to push through adversity, whether it’s personal or athletic or in school. All that comes into play when you put it on the line.” The results have shown on the track this spring, where the Heritage girls have posted some of the best times in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Heritage students know Gaines will challenge them to get better, and that she’ll be there to support them no matter what the results. “She can be really tough sometimes,” said sophomore sprinter Judith Bediako. “But I wouldn’t want another coach. It’s such an honor to work with her.” n FOCUS | 41