The Student News Site of Cape Coral High School

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The Student News Site of Cape Coral High School

The Seahawk's Eye

The Student News Site of Cape Coral High School

The Seahawk's Eye

Distance running coach Robert Berkey transferring to FM next year

Pivotal to the success of the Cape Coral High School distance running program, Coach Robert Berkey will not be returning back to the track for his twelfth season. Berkey has taken a position at Fort Myers High School, as girls distance head coach, working with tenure coach Yancy Palmer. 

After over ten years in the Nest, Berkey’s presence as head coach of the distance running program was fundamental in the success of recent years. With both boys and girls teams advancing to the state championship last fall, the loss of Berkey will be profound. His presence on and off the track is irreplaceable, and his contribution to his team and Cape High will not go unnoticed. 

The team dynamic and support is what Berkey feels has been the greatest accomplishment. From start to finish, the distance running program has always been a family because of the support of their leader.

“I’m proud of the team and what the team has helped me make successful. Now, whether or not that starts with me or not is debatable, but the quality of commitment has been carried on through the kids. So, when I look back on year one to 11 that’s what matters most to me,” said Ber

key. “It’s not wins and losses, of course, those things are great, but what it’s meant here and beyond. To me, that’s the biggest impact.”

From building the program from nothing, Berkey’s impact on the distance running program is monumental. The team was composed of only five runners over ten years ago, and is now over 30 strong. When Berkey reflects on his time after all these years, all he comes back to is his team’s impact. 

“When I look back on my own time of running, I’ve realized how much more it could’ve been,” said Berkey. “Seeing what you guys [the distance team] are capable of doing, with or without me being present is just way better than I could’ve done at that age.”

Berkey’s love and commitment to running has been years in the making. From a baseball star to a collegiate runner, Berkey has always completely dedicated himself to his sport. His wife, Katie Berkey has seen this dedication to the sport since their college years. 

“When he started cross country that first season, he [Berkey] didn’t think or anticipate he’d fall in love with it, and just thought that it was a means to an end to get better for baseball,” stated Katie. “It’s [running] so different from other sports in terms of mental grind, but achievin

g what you can do as a whole team is what he’s always loved. It just brought him a lot of pride and joy.”

This admiration for this team comradery is something that Berkey has continued to implement in his team even all these years later. Junior Makiah Michaels emphasized the compassion that Berkey always had for his team in their many successes. 

“I remember at the Dunbar track meet this year when I threw my third lap of the mile, I heard him [Berkey] shout ‘This is it. You’re gonna do it. Push the final lap, Mak.’ I just started smiling because I knew that I was going to break 6, and he knew it too,” said Michaels. “The entire last la

p I was just so happy. Because he believed in me, I was able to get to the line as fast as I could. It was such a good feeling having a person I look up to know that I was about to achieve one of my bigger goals.”

Michaels went 5:55.30 in the 1600m race, a 20 second personal record for her. 

It’s Berkey admiration and compassion for his runners that has made the distance running program into a powerhouse. To have a coach care for his players so intently is the driving force behind any successful team, and Berkey went above and beyond this for over ten years. 

“I think I’m leaving behind a legacy. Th

at’s kind of what we’ve always talked about here is building something that is forever lasting. I don’t know what direction is goes forward, but I feel like even if it struggles for a few years, we’ve laid some groundwork for something that’s going to be different for Cape Coral High School and all the kids that come through that are interested in running,” said Berkey. “Call it a revamp thing, but, at least, that’s what I’m hopeful for, that we’ve got those foundational pieces in play to kind of carry it on.”

This legacy is something that everyone in his life has noticed. It’s nearly impossible to make an impact and not be noticed for it, and an impact is a grand understatement for all the Berkey has done for the distance running program. 

“Well, just from an outside perspective looking in, it just seems that Bob [Berkey] has elevated the program so much and brought in so much excitement out of [th

e kids] that has really moved the team forward each year in teams of PRs (personal records),” stated Katie. “I just take a lot of pride in knowing how much joy it has brought Bob [Berkey] and how the fruits of that labor from all of [his running kids]. He is clearly so emotionally invested in [their] individual successes and the success of the team. It just makes me so proud to even be on the sidelines seeing everyone thriving and bringing just such enthusiasm and excitement.”

As a longtime runner of Berkey’s, his impact on my abilities as both a person and runner has been monumental just on a personal level. It’s exceedingly rare to have a coach come into your life who cares for you for more than your athletic abilities. In Berkey’s case, that was all he did. From going out of his way to stand up for me in my times of need to taking time out of his insane schedule to listen to me rant, he always put my mental and physical well-being above my athletic performance. 

I remember at states this year, after I barely made it across the finish line, he was the person to pull me up off the ground. After suffering from severe ferritin depletion all season, getting to the state meet was such an accomplishment. When I got across that line, I collapsed from exhaustion, and instead of hammering me for my poor performance, Berkey essentially carried me to the medical tent, and stayed until we were both confident that I wasn’t going to pass out again. He nearly missed the start of the boys’ race, just to make sure that I was stable enough to be left. 

I will never have another coach like Berkey. T

o have someone care for you so immensely is precious; and I know that my last three years with him will continue to impact my life tenfold, and I am not the only one. 

Junior and boys captain Nazayer Franco, said how he will miss the team antics with Berkey, as his supportive and fun nature throughout the years has been monumental in his success. 

“My favorite memory with Berkey was definitely when he ran with us before states and us messing around,” stated Franco. “I was so excited when we got to states and him b

eing there with us just added to the fun.”

Franco ran 17:14.00 at the 3A state meet in Tallahassee, on par with his season best on one of the most challenging courses in the state. He likes to think that Berkey’s support throughout the season and hours before the race is the reason for it. 

Even though Berkey is leaving the Nest behind, he will never forget everything he has learned from his team. The next chapter at Fort Myers High is just beginning, but it can’t start without the previous ones at Cape High. 

“Anything is possible. You just gotta keep your head down and just kind of grind. There’s always gains to be made. There’s always progression. One of the things we always talk about is that running is never linear. It’s never fair, but there’s always a pathway there,” said Berkey. “Those are the kinds of lessons that are most impactful for [the distance team]. I’m hoping to carry that on, bring that intensity, bring that commitment.”

From the cold showers every morning  to the concrete track out back, Cape High will always be home to Berkey. It’s hard to have a great sports team, but it’s even harder to foster one. While he might be running in the Green Wave, Berkey will always have a home in the Nest.

After all, according to Berkey, “It never ends.”

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