Most Kenston students and parents alike know all of the teachers in the building and exactly what it is that they do. One name that is probably thrown around the most is that of Mrs. DiBernardo, as it well should, seeing her exceptional involvement with Kenston High School and the activities that help it flourish. In addition to being an English and past-speech teacher, Mrs. DiBernardo is also the coach for the Girls' Cross Country team, co-coach of the Track team (where she is head of the girls' distance team), and is supervisor of the "Kenstonian", Kenston High School's yearbook publication. She somehow finds a way to juggle all of her school duties as well as her life away from the school with evident ease. After an interview with her, we are able to see her opinions on being an athlete, as well as her job as a coach, teacher, and supervisor.
Q: When did you begin running?
A: I began running in 7th grade track, although it may have started a little earlier when the 5th and 6th grade track and field days and the Presidential Physical Fitness tests were highlights of my elementary school years. I really don’t run competitively any more. I did run the 5k at Penitentiary Glen with the girls' team this past summer.
Q: How long have you been coaching? Did you coach anywhere before Kenston?
A: I’ve been coaching for as long as I've been in education. There was never a question as to whether I would coach when I came to Kenston. I coached for 1 year at Canton South High School while I did my student teaching there, and I started the cross country program at Dalton High School when I started teaching there right out of college. I coached both the boys' and girls' teams there for 4 years.
Q: What do you do in addition to coaching and in your free time?
A: I somehow try to balance my time between being the Yearbook Adviser, Distance Track Coach, and English Teacher here at the high school. I'm also a Mom of 2 (ages 3 and 5) and the Wife of Mayfield's Golf and Wrestling Coach, so life is crazy most days. But I wouldn't change any of it!
Q: What do you expect from your teams?
A: I expect my girls to give each race everything they have, and I want to see good sportsmanship. We need to recognize when someone has had a good race and accept when we just didn't have it in the tank. They also need to cheer for each other. Country is such a unique sport, where every participant has to endure the same race and conditions. They draw strength from each other. When they put themselves around the course to cheer for their teammates, they are giving their teammates more strength at that moment in the race. We count on each other at every race!
Q: What would you consider a hard practice? An easy one?
A: The toughest practices are 400m repeats on the track at faster than race-pace. The easy practices include a nice, long run.
Q: When are you proudest of your teams?
A: I am proudest of my runners when they recognize something in themselves that pushes them to want to do better. At the finish line, I can always tell when the girls have really given it everything they have. They just beam through their exhaustion. They set a PR, they held someone off at the finish, they placed well for the team, or they just finished a cross country race without pain or without walking – whatever it is – they are proud of themselves for having accomplished it. And I couldn't be more proud to be there to experience it with them!
Q: During the last Cross Country season, which course was your favorite? Your least favorite?
A: My favorite course this season is a toss-up. I liked the Legends course a lot, despite the thick muck. It is so much like the state course at Scioto Downs. It is fairly flat and easy on the spectators – and they actually run through the center of a horse barn. I always love Cloverleaf too. The "lagoon" is fun, the awards are always abundant, the t-shirts are very creative, and we stop at Torm's for ice cream afterward. Can it get any better? We actually had a number of girls set their season PRs there also. The worst was Gilmour. We look forward to Gilmour all season. The course, for being a 2-lap course, is really a nice, rolling course. We always run well there, and we run on Friday night and take the next day off, our only Saturday off all season. That always makes it an exciting meet for us. We usually see quite a few PRs, which also makes it a team favorite from year to year. This year, however, it was a muddy mess. We ran well and scored well as a team (finishing 6th out of 13 tough teams), but the conditions were really slippery with thick muck over the whole course. It was very disappointing for the girls who had been looking forward to it all season.
Q: What advice would you give to any new athletes or aspiring runners? What past experiences have you had participating in high school sports?
A: Push yourself beyond what you think you can do, and believe you can do it. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve. And never settle. Be the person, athlete, and student you want to be. It's in you; you just have to find it. It won't necessarily be easy, but it will definitely be worth it! Cross Country introduced me to whole new side of myself. When I first went out for Cross Country my freshman year, I never thought I'd make it, but my coach made me promise that I would guarantee him 2 weeks. He told me, "Give me two weeks. It won’t be easy, but if you stick it out for 2 weeks – guarantee me that – you'll never regret it. I'll make a runner out of you." And he did. I was the first girl in my high school to earn a varsity letter all 4 years. It wasn't easy – but it was definitely worth it! I credit my high school coach, Jeff Arthurs, for giving me confidence, determination, a sense of belonging, and motivation to succeed. He was certainly the single-most influential person in my life growing up. Because of all that I gained from being on my cross country team, I love it enough to share it with other young ladies.