“Pick up the pace guys, its meatloaf night! ” Exclaimed Pleasant Grove High School track coach Bill Saunders. You could see the pain and agony that the athletes were experiencing as they made their final laps around the track in attempt to finish off that day’s workout. The mid afternoon sun was beating down on the young adults and you could see tears of sweat running from their faces.
Bill Saunders has been the track coach at Pleasant Grove for four consecutive seasons now and says, “There is no greater feeling of success than seeing the smiling faces of those athletes who achieve their season goals! ” As the old saying goes, “Those who can’t, teach. ” Those are the precise words that got Bill Saunders to where he is today. As a child he spent his entire life growing up in the same brown colored house in Alpine, Utah. While in high school Bill decided to join the track team as a fun after school activity with his friends.
He had never truly enjoyed running before so his expectations for the season weren’t exactly high by any means. Bill decided to join the long distance team his first season in ninth grade. Bill recalls contemplating quitting the team after the extreme amounts of pain he had been in after the first week. However, his mother, being the pushy, strong, good example in his life that he had needed, told him that if you start something, you must finish it, “I didn’t raise quitters!
He took his mothers words to heart and from that point he changed his mind set about track and went forth with the rest of the season having the goal of getting the school record for the one mile run. “It was a lot of hard work and I remember going to practice some days feeling like absolute garbage, but I knew what I had to do if I was ever going to reach my goals, so I stuck to it, and did just that. ” At the end of his first track season, Bill had in fact broken the school record for the one mile run at the end-of-the-season regional meet.
He then went on to states and placed 5th overall. “If you asked me at the beginning of the season if I was going to be going to states that season, I would have said, ‘yeah right’, but it just goes to show when you set your mind to something you can do anything, and that’s what I want for my athletes, I want them to set goals, and succeed. ” For the remaining years of high school bill continued to run track and went on to earn many state titles for various events.
Graduating from high school at age seventeen, bill was able to complete two full years of schooling at Utah’s very own, Brigham Young University, along with two seasons of indoor track, and two seasons of outdoor track, before serving a two year mission in Pocatello, Idaho, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He claims, “I was a Cougar at heart, and on the track. ” (Making reference to his speed. ) Bill explains in detail about how going on a mission was the greatest thing that he could have ever done with his life, and that he spiritually learned more in that two years then what he learned his entire life being a member.
He then goes on to say though, that once those two years were over, he was ready to start running again. This time he decided to stay away from the track team and go for longer distances. He began training for Salt Lake City marathon and was determined to finish. That April he ran the marathon and finished with an astonishing time of three hours, forty minutes and twenty-eight seconds, which is a remarkable for a first timer. Just past the finish line he remembers seeing a thin young girl drinking a bottle of water, and immediately that “wow” factor went off in his head.
He remembers thinking to himself, “That’s the woman I’m going to marry! ” With that in mind, he went over and asked her out on a date. She accepted and one year later they were married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple. The two of them spent the next couple years together finishing their schooling and training together for various marathons throughout the state of Utah. In October 2005 Bill and his wife, Keri, had been training to run in the St. George Marathon. This was going to be the last marathon that they would run before the arrival of their new son.
After which Keri was going to have to take it easy from running for a while. She was due in January of 2006, but that wasn’t going to stop her from running the race. Weeks leading up to the race, the two of them were enjoying each other’s company while going on long training runs through the canyons and what not. The day of the race had finally arrived and Bill recalls feeling “especially good,” for that particular race. However, 2 hours and about 18 miles into the race, Bill tore his Achilles tendon, which removed him from the race and his running career all at the same time.
He explains, “After about three surgeries and 6 months of physical therapy I was able to walk again without crutches, but running has never truly been the same for me since. ” He then goes on to add, “It’s funny, out of the two of us I was sure the fat pregnant lady was going to be the one having problems that race, but no, she kicked my butt and showed me how it’s done, it was a humbling experience, and I truly love her. ” That following December, Bill and Keri both graduated from Brigham Young University. Bill with a master degree in Education, and Keri with a degree in family and marriage counseling.
Just a short month later they celebrated the birth of their first son, named Andrew, and was living in a quaint house together in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Four months later Bill was given a job teaching high school Physics at Pleasant Grove High School, for the summer school program and then was given a full-time teaching job for the next fall. A year later the school was in need of a new cross country and track and field coach. Bill thought that he was perfect for the job and applied. The school board found his running resume not only lengthy but impressive and felt that he was more than qualified for the coaching job.
Bill explains, “My teaching and coaching jobs do take up a bit more time from my family than I would like but with the two jobs, it’s enough money to support my wife and son so that she doesn’t have to go to work, and can stay home and take care of the responsibilities that I could not perform as well as her. Like balancing the checkbook and laundry and stuff like that, and she actually enjoys it which is the best part, I would never stand in the way of letting her have a career if that’s what she truly wanted.
But for right now, they system we have works for us. ” “Alright you bunch of Sally’s, hit the showers, your done for today,” exclaimed Coach Saunders. The practice was over, and so was my time speaking to him. Bill Saunders truly is a man with a passion for running, although he is no longer able to compete for himself, it brings him great joy in knowing that if he pushes his athletes as hard as he pushed himself when he was their ages, that they can have the same amount of success as he did.
As I was about to leave and head back toward my car I heard him shout to me to stop for a second. As I turned my head to look back at him, he looked me in the eye and in a stern voice he said to me, “I really do love this job, and my life, and my family, and now, I’m going to go eat my meatloaf! ” I stood there and chuckled for a moment, shook my head from left to right and then took off toward my car again.