Leaving a legacy on and off the track

Coach’s death impacts school, community

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Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Steve Telaneus died on Thursday, April 30. He was the only cross country coach the school has ever had and was a loved member of the community. Pictured above is his yearbook photo from the 2019 – 2020 school year.

The school is mourning the death of long-time Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Steve Telaneus, who died on Thursday, April 30 at age 60. His winning legacy and dedication to his students and his school made Telaneus, who was known as “Coach T” across Texas, a beloved member of the school and the community.

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve probably ever had to deal with. When I heard the news on Thursday evening, my whole life just kind of stopped,” Assistant Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Andrew Reinberg said. “We’ll be sad about this, but the man just lived his life to the fullest and lived this life for others and lived his for Jesus, and there’s no way you could be sad about that. He loved everyone and he lived for everyone. He was a servant.”

Although losing Telaneus has been difficult for Reinberg and the community, he is thankful he was able to coach by his side for the past four years.

“The man was more than just a friend. He was a mentor. He’s like a father to me,” Reinberg said. “There has been no greater mentor, no greater friends that I’ve had in my career than Coach Telaneus.”

Telaneus started his career in LISD as an assistant coach at Griffin Middle School in 1983. He then began working at Marcus in 1986 as the football team’s first wide receivers coach. 

“As you might imagine, he was awesome,” the football team tweeted. “Rest In Peace, Coach T. Your impact will be felt for lifetimes.”

Telaneus then began to coach boys and girls in both cross country and track and field. He is the only cross country coach that the school has ever had and built the program into an award-winning powerhouse. 

Flower Mound High School’s Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Andrew Cook was on the Marcus track team from 1995 – 1996. Telaneus helped Cook get his job at Flower Mound High School by acting as a reference.

“He was… super competitive, but he found a way to balance that fire, that drive with also getting to know and relate with his athletes, and you could really tell that he cared about everybody,” Cook said. “When I was on the team we went to state all four years.”

Telaneus’ coaching helped the girls cross country team win the team state championships in 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2015. Telaneus also coached numerous individual champions at the district, regional and state levels, including three state cross country champions — Amani Terrell in 1996, Renee Metivier in 1999 and Craig Lutz in both 2009 and 2010. Metivier and Lutz both went on to be named as All-Americans in college and later ran professionally. Metivier also won multiple national championships.

Keegan Douglas-Davis
Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Steve Telaneus poses with the girls cross country team’s regional trophy in 2016.

“The world has lost an amazing man,” Lutz tweeted. “Coach T was the foundation to any success I saw during my running career. He was a great mentor and a great friend.”

Telaneus was a five-time Cross Country Coaches Associations of Texas’ Coach of the Year. He was named as the National Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2000 and the National High School Coaches Association Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2002. He was inducted into the National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. 

“In the beginning I think he played quite a mentor type role for me, and all coaches would say this,” Cook said. “He’d been around for such a long time and he was really great in that he was going to kind of share what he knew as a coach and what he had learned.”

However, Telaneus will be remembered for more than his long list of accomplishments.  

“When we talked about coaching, we were super competitive and we always wanted to win, but that was not ever his number one priority,” Reinberg said. “His number one priority was taking care of kids and making sure that everybody found a love and a passion for track and  for cross country and for running and just taking care of themselves.”

Telaneus taught his athletes more than how to run or jump. He discussed life skills with them, such as how to take care of their bodies with proper nutrition and how to be a good sibling and a good friend. Although Reinberg was also a coach, he said that he was in the same spot as every athlete there he got four years with Telaneus, who helped him grow on and off of the track. 

“It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve learned so much from him, not only about being a great coach, not only about being just a good staff member and a part of the Marcus community, but just being a good person,” Reinberg said. “He taught me a lot of things about being a good father. The way he cared for his own kids, his own wife and everything, I’ve learned it. It just goes so much deeper than just being a good coach. It’s about being a good person. I’ll never forget any of the moments that I had with him.”

Submitted by Steve Telaneus in 2016
Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Steve Telaneus gives a pep talk to senior cross country runner Ashton Hutcherson following the conclusion of a meet in 2016.

Telaneus, who was also the P.E. partners coach, strove to teach his athletes how to have good character. He saw every race and event as a learning experience. 

“One of his greatest sayings, and this will live on forever, is ‘Win with humility and lose with character,’” Reinberg said. “So everything that he did, whether it was a small thing to the biggest thing, it was all about the process and learning from the goods and the bads of the whole thing.”

Reinberg admired the way Telaneus supported every athlete, whether they crossed the finish line first or last. 

“As competitive as we are in a 6A district, one of the best areas in the state of Texas… he never neglected a single athlete, which was incredible to watch and be a part of,” Reinberg said. “I’ve been blessed just to have the four years with him. I’ll take that and live that out for the rest of my career.”

Senior cross country, track and field athlete Claire Reader said that Telaneus always had a positive attitude, and when he was disappointed, he faced it with a smile and taught his runners that they could overcome any setback. 

“If you were being negative, he would call you out because running is such a mental sport,” Reader said. “He would tell you to be more positive or tell you to adjust your mindset because he always believed that you could push harder.”

The day after Telaneus died, past and present athletes began hanging shoes, posters and shirts on the fence outside of the track to honor him. Some added medals from district and state meets as well as letterman jackets.

“These are things that people work really, really hard to get, but in the long run I think they realize they wouldn’t have been there without the help of Coach T, and so they wanted to bring that back to him,” Reinberg said. “It’s an incredible, very small part of just how special he was.”

Reinberg went to see the fence with Telaneus’ family on Tuesday. Telaneus often told his wife stories about his job, and the countless notes of appreciation showed that he was leaving a legacy at the school. 

“His wife made a comment to me [on Tuesday] saying, ‘This is ultimately just an incredible experience because I’m getting to see so many amazing positives about what he brought to this program, what he brought to these kids’ lives,’” Reinberg said. 

Maya Hernandez
A note and shoes from some of the first athletes Head Cross Country, Track and Field Coach Steve Telaneus taught hang on the fence outside of the track to honor his memory.

Telaneus’ friends, coworkers and students also honored his life by driving by his family’s home on May 3 in a memorial procession. It took cars 15 minutes to get into the parking lot where the procession started because it was so crowded.

“It was amazing to see the large numbers of people that cared about him and went over there to pay their respects to the family,” Cook said. “That shows you what an impact he’s had.”

The tent the cross country team brings to every meet was set up in the Telaneus family’s front yard. Telaneus’ wife, Ellen, was there with her family, Reinberg and his family. Reinberg helped Ellen identify some of the people driving by. 

“It was an incredible thing. I didn’t even get to see the parking lot, but there were hundreds and they talked about it being over 300 cars filled with people that loved him,” Reinberg said. “The thing that was so cool is just the outpouring of love. So many cars just kept going and going and going.” 

Reinberg said that the most meaningful moment of the procession was at the very end when one of the first responders who saved Telaneus’ life after he had a nearly fatal heart attack at the district cross country meet on Oct. 26, 2002 drove by. Telaneus’ heart stopped for over 30 minutes, but because of the first responder’s and other health care professionals’ efforts, Telaneus was able to return to the job he loved. In December 2016, the cross country news site Texas MileSplit released a documentary called Heart of Marcus about his recovery. 

“He came out and had this very special moment with Ms. Telaneus,” Reinberg said. “They just got to swap stories… That was really special just to get to see the interaction there.”

Telaneus coached generations of athletes, including the parents of current runners. Reinberg has heard from countless of these athletes since Telaneus died, and they all said that his life lessons resonated with them and inspired them to follow in his footsteps, either in their career or in their personal goals.

“There’s not really a way to condense this man’s life into one story. His reach has gone far beyond the walls of Marcus,” Reinberg said. “It’s not just about running, being athletes. It’s about being a better person. That ultimately was Coach T.”