By Mike Zummo
At some point this year, the Valley Central girls’ track and cross-country teams will run, and for the first time in more than 30 years, Ron Hebbard won’t be holding the stopwatch.
With Hebbard’s retirement the 2019-20 school year, the Valley Central Board of Education has appointed 2010 graduate and one of Hebbard’s former runners, Allison Borriello, as his replacement.
Borriello, a math consultant at East Coldenham school, is in her fourth year working at Valley Central and previously coached modified track, and for two years prior coached at North Rockland. She even filled in for Hebbard during the 2015 indoor season when Hebbard couldn’t coach due to a concussion.
Now, she’s permanent.
“It’s so awesome,” Borriello said. “I’ve seen Hebbard a lot in the past. It’s just nice to be able to implement all the things I’ve learned from him. He’s been coaching for over 30 years. I’m just honored that he’s been able to leave that program to me and to build on that legacy that he’s left.”
So, what is that legacy?
Borriello said he emphasized that even though track and field and cross country are made of individual events it’s a team sport.
“He was always instilling the idea that you have to lean on your teammates and work with each other,” Borriello said.
For Hebbard, it’s rewarding to see a former athlete come back and coach the program.
“I think that’s what all coaches want,” Hebbard said. “She’s seen the program mature. That should be great. It’s too bad with what’s going on now that she can’t step right in. I know the kids are begging to get back on there.”
She plans to continue that philosophy and it’s already started, even though the team hasn’t been able to hit the track yet. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have a Google classroom, where they help the kids with optional training, and they can reflect on how their weekly workouts they’re going.
When Hebbard first started thinking about retiring, he had thought one of his other coaches might take over the program, but when she moved on from coaching. He said Borriello did a good job when she filled in for him during the 2015 indoor season.
“It’s hard to find new young coaches,” Hebbard said. “It was one of the things we tried to do was find new, young coaches and trying to get new people in. I’ve had a lot of female assistant coaches and they coach for a while, and then they start to have families and they have to move on to that. Hopefully, she steps in, does a great job and will stay a long time.”
Borriello said coming back to coach at Valley Central was a best-case scenario and she’s relishing the opportunity. She knew she always wanted to coach and knew it may be difficult coaching as an elementary teacher because they go later than high schools, but she found a way as a math consultant to bridge that gap.
“It’s nice to be able to give back to the community that helped me become the professional that I am today,” Borriello said.
When the girls run, they won’t be running by themselves. Borriello still runs and can run with the athletes.
“She grew up here and can give back to the district,” Hebbard said. “She can give a good experience like when she ran in the district.”