Finn Wilkins '23

Laura Smith

What brought you to your new role of head coach of Berkshire’s girls cross country team?
I was the head (and only) coach of the boys and girls cross country teams at my previous school, a small local middle and high school. Despite being responsible for 35 runners from 7th to 12th grade, I enjoyed my time with those athletes. In my experience, runners come together and support each other, despite athletic prowess. Cross country is about being part of a team while pursuing personal goals. It is about progress rather than perfection. 

What makes Berkshire a special place to coach cross country at?
Berkshire is a supportive community, and I do not work alone in my coaching endeavors. The other coaches–Dan Cooper, head boys coach, and Robert Jing, assistant coach–work together to come up with training plans, running routes, and the weekly schedule and execution of that schedule. I am also working with a fabulous crew of student-athletes, who come to practice loaded with ideas, goals, and positive attitudes. 

What qualities do you require out of your players as athletes, characters, and scholars?
I think that if we as a team can cheer for the first runner crossing the line as well as the last, no matter the color of running singlet they don, then I have done my job. I learned the power of support and camaraderie as a parent of a cross country runner. My son competed throughout high school and college, and I watched as his teams gathered at the sidelines to cheer in the slowest racer. It is that spirit of competition that makes cross country a unique sport. 

The Bears' race at Canterbury. Photo by Coach Smith

What is the most difficult part of coaching cross country and how do you overcome those challenges?
I do not find the coaching difficult at Berkshire. I have a strong support team surrounding me (Coach Cooper and Dr. Jing) as well as an incredibly kind, hard working, team. We have amazing athletic trainers who nip injuries in the bud and who support runners at all times. We have a fun but difficult course, plenty of places to run, and Mrs. Zinke, who keeps the athletes attired. The only difficult part is keeping up with the athletes, which I now can do with my bike! 

I have had positive interactions with the coaches of other teams and all have supported me and answered any questions I have about racing in the private school world. The greater running community is also always available, and I can always reach out to running groups with any questions I have. 

If one of your runners was asked to describe you, what would they say?
I want runners to work hard to obtain their goals, yet also take care of themselves. I am supportive, yet have high expectations. I know what it is like to be injured and sidelined, and I hope that I come across as empathetic and kind, yet driven. I love to run and do so every day before school. I came to running later in life (in my twenties) and hope that I can instill a love of running in my athletes so that they do not miss out on this valuable, stress-relieving activity which has brought me much joy and community.