Perseverance, pride builds athletic dynasty
Lockhart Cross Country basks in “Hippensteel Era”
By LPR Staff
As a leader, he is humble, but intense. As a member of the community, he is dynamic, if understated. In running circles, not only in Texas, but nationwide, he is quite simply legendary. When NCAA-recognized runners need advice, they call. When local organizations need to
organize a run, they call.
Scott Hippensteel, 44, answers every time.
For 20 years now, Hippensteel”s name has been nearly synonymous with the now-thriving Cross Country program within Lockhart ISD. When he joined the district, the program was all but nonexistent. This year, he led his team to a historic 20th consecutive District Championship, and began looking ahead almost immediately to the Regional Championship, where his team stands a chance of bringing home a tenth regional title in 15 years.
“In the years I”ve been involved in UIL Cross Country, I don”t recall a coach having accomplished anything like what [Hippensteel] has been able to,” said UIL Region 4 Chair and UTSA Women”s Track/Cross Country Head Coach James Blackwood. “And I”ve been around for a few years.”
Blackwood, formerly a coach at the University of Texas, was involved in the first cross country state meet in 1972, and has been actively involved in the sport since.
It was at the University of Texas that Blackwood first came to know Hippensteel.
“I remember him well, and he was one of my favorites that I coached,” Blackwood said. “He was a runner, but he was injured, and so I made him my cross country manager, back when he was at the University of Texas.”
Blackwood recalls spending many practices with Hippensteel, and alluded to a long-time friendship ripe with respect – and fun.
“I used to make the team run the Town Lake trails,” Blackwood said. “Scott would ride with me in my truck, and one day, we missed the One-Mile marker…”
Blackwood laughed and asked not to explain, but suggested that a milkshake and a fast-food restaurant had something to do with the missed marker.
Hippensteel, of course, was quick with an explanation, Blackwood said.
“He told them we didn”t want to interrupt them while they were trying to make their stride… and it just became kind of a joke from there.”
Love of fun to one side, Blackwood also fondly remembers Hippensteel”s love of the sport.
“He loves the sport, and that comes through when he”s working with the kids,” he said. “He”s absolutely for real, and the kids can sense that about him. He also knows exactly what it takes to help these kids succeed, and exactly how to get them there.”
Few public jokes crop up around the Lockhart Cross Country training room these days, but that does not mean the runners don”t have fun.
“[Hippensteel] is the kind of leader that thinks at a higher level than other people,” Lockhart Girls Cross Country Coach Lee Datesman said. “He knows how to lead the kids, but he also knows how to remind them to have fun while they”re running.”
Datesman, who joined LISD in 1995, has been working with Hippensteel for 12 years. He, along with Doug Alfier, make up the top tiers of the Cross Country program”s coaching structure.
“There is no way to sum up in one word what Scott has been to this program, or to this community,” Datesman said. “He”s an incredible gift to the community, and the leadership he brings – in so many ways to so many different areas – is immeasurable.”
Datesman said Hippensteel”s leadership and impact on his students is such that they can feel his presence, even when he is not with them.
“He”s just intense. His intensity is unparalleled,” Datesman said. “There are guys, now really generations of guys, that will be at the meet on Saturday, that he”s impacted in some way by being their coach, their teacher… It”s just… he”s intense.”
Datesman said, though, that Hippensteel”s intensity has lessened – a bit – since the birth of his son, Luke. Perhaps a father”s love for his “destined-to-be-a-runner” son, now 8, did the trick.
Hippensteel”s wife of 14 years, Karla, isn”t so sure.
“I knew that he was an intense person when I met him,” she laughed. “And that”s just the way he is. If he”d been a street sweeper (instead of a cross country coach), he would have been the very best street sweeper in the world.”
Luckily for student athletes in Lockhart, Hippensteel chose the world of coaching instead.
“He loves the sport, and coming to Lockhart just seemed a good match for him,” she said. “We were both raised in small towns, and he keeps giving to the program, because the people here in Lockhart keep on giving and giving back to him.”
Hippensteel takes special pride in seeing his students succeed, she said. Currently, at least two of his former runners are now colleagues, having graduated and returned to Lockhart as teachers. One, Matt Buehner, even joined the Cross Country coaching staff.
“He told me this year that he has the first student that”s a child of one of his former students,” Karla said. “So he”s gotten into the second generation. And if watching you former students succeed and raise their own families doesn”t instill a sense of pride, I don”t know what would.”
Apparently, leading a team to 20 consecutive district championships, nine regional titles and five state championships pales a bit in comparison.
“He was almost unfazed when we got back to the office after the meet on Satuorday,” Datesman said. “I said to him “Wow. That”s 20… Incredible.” He said that the high point of his day was the parents, students and fans presenting him with a congratulatory cake. Then he left to go to the Longhorns game.”
Karla, on the other hand, takes a different tack on Hippensteel”s reaction.
“He tends to be the kind of person that doesn”t really look back,” she said. “He doesn”t have that kind of pride about it. But I also don”t think it”s sunk completely in yet.”
For Hippensteel, a paragon of humility in the face of success, the reality may never sink in.
“He”s always been like that,” Brownwood said in closing. “He”ll be the first one to tell you that the program wouldn”t be what it is without the kids. But the kids will be the first to tell you that the program wouldn”t be what it is without him. So it”s a two-way street.”
For Lockhart, though, the street seems to be one-way, and all signs point toward continued success and excellence.