In his first practice as a member of the Southeast Missouri State cross country team, Jim Stoverink Sr. came close to calling it quits.
This is because at his first day of practice, Stoverink Sr. and the rest of the runners were required to run 10 miles. The most he had ever run before that was three.
His son, Jim Stoverink Jr., said this was a moment that could have impacted hundreds of cross country runners in southeast Missouri, including himself, because his father probably wouldn’t have become a coach if he had quit.
“My dad had never run more than three miles before college at one time because he didn’t have a coach in high school, so he didn’t know any better,” Stoverink Jr. said. “My dad and a friend of his got to Snake Hill with about three miles to go in the run, and they were going to walk up the hill. They were done.”
Stoverink Sr. was talked out of quitting by one of the veteran runners, who actually pushed Stoverink Sr. and the other runner up the hill.
Stoverink Sr. went on to run the rest of the 10 miles that day to eventually become the captain of the team his senior year.
“You think of the hundreds of kids my dad had an impact on and the impact I’ve had on kids, and none of that happens if this guy doesn’t do this simple act of kindness.”
Stoverink Sr. also would have never been inducted into the Missouri Cross Country and Track and Field Hall of Fame, which he was earlier this month on Dec. 8.
“We are obviously just all really proud of him — it’s something he definitely deserves,” Stoverink Jr. said. “He spent over half a century involved in track and field and cross country at some level or another whether it was competing as a high school athlete, college athlete, as a coach and now as an official.”
After serving two years in the Army where he won the Special Services Cross Country Race while stationed in Fort Lee, Virginia, Stoverink Sr. began his coaching career at Cuba in cross country and track and field.
After that, the Cape Notre Dame alumnus took the head coaching job at Jackson as the high school’s cross country coach and continued to coach track at the junior high level.
Stoverink Sr. helped lead Jackson’s cross country team to 16 SEMO Conference Championships, six district championships, two sectional championships and two top-four finishes at state.
One runner for the girls cross country team even won an individual state championship under Stoverink Sr., who also started the Jackson Youth Track Club that has been around for more than 30 years, which introduced the sport to over hundreds of children.
“He was a little bit surprised [on being inducted],” Stoverink Jr. said. “I don’t think he saw it coming at all, but a lot of his contemporaries, the guys that he coached against, had been inducted over the years. I don’t know if he ever thought much about that he would be considered for [the hall of fame], too.”
Stoverink Sr. retired from coaching in the early 2000s, which after he became an official and is currently serving in his 14th year.
Stoverink Sr. was also named the Missouri State Cross Country Coach of the Year in the span while officiating at the state track and field meets each of the last four years.
“He was ready to retire from education and from coaching, but he still wanted to be a part of the sport,” Stoverink Jr. said. “He really enjoys it, and he gets a front row seat at some of the best track meets in the state of Missouri.”
Even though Stoverink Sr. spent so much time over the years coaching and now officiating, Stoverink Jr. said he always put family first.
Stoverink Jr. went on to say neither his mom or dad missed any of their five children’s sporting events whether it was basketball, cross country, track and field or wrestling.
Sports became a family thing for the Stoverinks, so much that even Stoverink Sr.’s wife, Susan, who had no athletic background, became a score keeper for cross country. Susan still keeps the score at the Jackson Invitational to this day, which she has now been doing for more than 30 years.
She also is the bullpen clerk for the track and field team’s invitational, which Stoverink Jr. said is the most important job at any track meet.
“That’s just kind of how my parents are,” Stoverink Jr. said. “They get involved and are just very supportive of myself and all of their kids.”
Stoverink Jr. is currently the head coach for Jackson’s track and field program while serving as an assistant for the cross country program.
One thing Stoverink Jr. learned from his father about life is one never goes into something for the money, but because they enjoy doing it.
Stoverink Jr. has learned this from his father because he noticed how much Stoverink Sr. enjoyed coaching as well as when former athletes of his come up to thank him for the years he mentored them.
“That’s what I think I got from him is a love for the sport — a passion for cross country and track,” Stoverink Jr. said. “I’m really fortunate that I got to grow up with it and carry on the family tradition.”
Stoverink Jr. said he does not think it was intentional for his father to have influenced him to become a coach because when he told his parents in high school he wanted to be a coach and a teacher, his dad was surprised.
Stoverink Jr. even vaguely remembers his father asking him, “Did you not pay attention to how we lived barely making ends meet?”
Stoverink Sr. began his head coaching career for Jackson cross country starting his son’s junior year, which was a normal thing for Stoverink Jr. because his father had been his coach his entire life.
“From the time that I was old enough to get on a track field and start running around, my parents were entering me in youth track meets,” Stoverink Jr. said. “So my dad was my coach from the time I was six-years-old up to junior high.”
Stoverink Jr. said it was different his first two years of high school when his father wasn’t his coach, so it was “back to business as usual” for the Stoverinks.
“[My father] didn’t treat me any differently than he did any of his other runners,” Stoverink Jr. said. “We had a great father-son relationship, and a great coach-athlete relationship, too. It was kind of the best of both worlds.”
Stoverink Jr. even had the chance to experience the other end of the spectrum as he coached his son, and even his brother, who is 20 years younger.