Joe Tribble, leading cross country to victory since 1984


Photo credit Shaw

Joe Tribble. This history teacher and cross-country coach is known by all as a man who strives for one thing: Victory.

“It’s just one word,” said Tribble. “But it entails competing; it entails winning, but winning in the right way, and it entails that even in defeat, you can turn that defeat into resolution to perform even better the next time.”

For the last few years, Tribble has made that dream a reality for the boys’ cross-country team, having coached 23 state championship-winning teams since he began coaching. First coaching track in 1983, Tribble took charge of the cross-country team in the fall of 1984. His experience with running in college made him an ideal candidate for both coaching positions, and his methods have proved successful. Tribble coaches the cross-country team not only for the joy of running but also for the privilege of seeing students break their boundaries, come out of their comfort zones, and do the things that they never thought they could do.

“There’ve been guys who for three or four years really tried to make it into the top seven or even the top ten,” said Tribble. “And occasionally those people have not only made it into that top group but have run in the state meet. To see something like that is incredibly satisfying.”

However, the team is not always destined for victory, and some seasons end not with a state victory party at Waffle House, but with disappointment and despair.

“One of the absolute worst experiences was 2006, losing to a team in the state meet that I didn’t think we should have lost to,” said Tribble. “Our number one guy fell, hurt his knee, he got up, he still finished the race, but it was just such a disappointment, we had chased this team the whole season, and I really though that we would do it at state, and we just missed by a couple of points. It was hard to deal with.”

While victory is never definite, Tribble’s coaching style normally pushes the team to always run their best. There are many different ways to coach a cross-country team, and Tribble focuses on concentration and quality of practices over quantity of running, preferring to run shorter, more intense practices over extremely long runs.

“He brings such a high level of intensity to practices and meets that he inspires everyone to give their best every interval and every run,” said junior runner Pranav Rekapalli, “Tribble’s practices help to bring the team together because he never divides up the team.”

“There is no A group, B group, C group,” said Tribble. “We’re one team. We run the same thing. We never divide up the team, because I think that if you’re in the C group, you’ll be a C runner. I think that it is very important to keep the team unified at all times. Even if somebody is slower than somebody else, it emphasizes we all count. Push to the front, and pull the people behind you.”

This mindset has helped Tribble lead the team to many victories over his 30 years as coach.

“I think he is a great guy who is willing to do what it takes to win state,” said sophomore runner James Dickey.

This year Westminster moved from the AA division into the AAA division, changing the level of competition the team will face. The move may seem daunting, but Tribble is unfazed.

“We’ve won close to half I think, I haven’t counted, but I think it would be close to half if not more at the AAA level,” said Tribble. “The first year we won after a long hiatus from victory in 1987, 25 years before, ‘62 with Kosh, that was the last title.”

The fact that Tribble is confident in his team’s ability even with the loss of several seniors shows his belief in his methods and the boys’ ability to excel.

“The thing is, you have to believe in what you’re doing,” said Tribble.

His favorite workout, “the tough one,” is a three-mile tempo run (a three mile run with set times for each mile) followed by a three by mile (three miles with rest in between each one) followed by an eight by 200 (eight 200 meter sprints with short rest in between each one).

“If you can do that, you can run anywhere for anybody,” said Tribble.

His favorite way to celebrate his victories is with a victory coke.

“I always bring it, I’m always ready, “said Tribble. “After a meet or a really good practice it’s always there. Victory coke.”

His favorite cross-country tradition is visiting Waffle House after a victory, and his motto for coaching is (obviously) victory.

While coaching the boys’ cross-country team is a hard job, Tribble is also a history teacher.

“I was hired to teach first and coach second, so I still see myself primarily as a teacher of history, which I also love very much,” said Tribble.

However, while his main focus is teaching, his coaching position is very important to him as well.

“There is something hard to put into words, but when the teaching day is over and we get to come out here and run and run hard and especially watching people improve; there’s a lot to that, “said Tribble. “Watching people get their best times. It’s exciting.”

Joe Tribble has been an integral part of Westminster since 1983, with his confidence and experience enabling him to help the boys’ cross-country team break many boundaries and do the unthinkable. His love of coaching and history has ultimately helped to lead him to his definitive goal: Victory.