COLUMBIA — After 20 years as a part of Missouri’s running programs, Rebecca Wilmes resigned on June 11 as the coach of the Missouri women's cross country team.
“I was on the road, and I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be,” said Wilmes, who is the mother of Elyse, 5, and Garrett, 8.
In 2010, her husband Jared Wilmes, who had coached the men's cross country team at Missouri, also left the program to spend more time with their family. However, he then started working full time for the MFA Oil Company, which took time away from the family.
After leaving Missouri, Rebecca Wilmes said her only plan was to spend time with her family. She admitted that leaving Missouri with an undetermined future “may not have been the best plan,” but everything seems to have worked out.
A few days after resigning from Missouri, she heard about an opportunity at Battle High School, which is set to open in the fall of 2013 in Columbia. Just nine days after leaving Missouri, Rebecca Wilmes was named the school's track and field coach.
Now she will have an opportunity to build her own program. Although she has no experience coaching at a high school, Rebecca Wilmes said she is excited to start working with younger athletes. Wilmes, who was coached by her father, Raymond Davis, at Parkway West High School in St. Louis, said she hopes to employ the same versatility her father had as a high school coach.
“Be an artist, and change on the fly. You can’t stick to the plan. You need to give kids what they need,” Wilmes said.
Wilmes’s student-centered approach impressed Battle's principal Kim Presko.
“She is focused on helping students grow as individuals, not just athletes,” said Presko, who also thinks Wilmes’ experience at the collegiate level will be a valuable asset.
“It’s important to have someone who knows what the expectations are at the next level,” Presko said.
Wilmes said her time spent recruiting high school athletes has taught her valuable lessons that will help her make a smooth transition. She said she has embraced the difference between high school and collegiate athletes.
“Kids are kids, and track is just another arena to teach kids in,” Wilmes said.
Some of the Tigers athletes Wilmes had worked with said they will try to remember the attitude Wilmes worked to instill in them.
“She makes you want to work hard,” said Ali Ross, who spent two years with Wilmes.
Laura Roxberg, who finished her senior cross country season last fall, said she was glad her coach would have more time to spend with her family.
“I am so fortunate,” said Wilmes looking back on her career at Missouri and forward to her future at Battle High School, “… and I am so blessed to be around so many great people.”