Christine Eisenhut saw a program she believed in.
That program found itself in a bind before the 2015 season and Eisenhut stepped up, moving from volunteer to head cross country coach at Lansing High School.
With the offer on the table, she called her neighbor and a running partner Becca Lovenheim to gauge her interest. Lovenheim joined as a volunteer assistant coach.
One year into it, the program is growing, the Lansing running community is prospering and the two women are switching roles.
“I’m really the bridge and she is the future,” Eisenhut said. “I was really sort of a temporary kind of fix for it.”
While Eisenhut buoyed the program before handing it over, the energetic Lovenheim has large plans for it and their Lansing community.
Eisenhut believed in the program because she saw it first-hand.
Her son, Ben, graduated from Lansing in 2015 and went on to run at Canisius College before transferring to Geneseo. Her daughter, Catie, is a three-sport athlete involved in soccer, hockey and track and field. Between the two, she and her husband’s garage is filled with every sport equipment imaginable.
She took over as the head coach because the program needed one, but though she enjoyed the kids and coaching she said she wasn’t sure she wanted to coach full-time going forward.
“I think it’s fun to be a parent,” she said. “It’s fun to be a coach, but it’s really fun to be a parent.”
Lovenheim is a parent to two young girls under the age of 8, which is why she was hesitant to take a head coaching role last year when her neighbor floated the idea.
The full-time mom is a former third-grade teacher who had thought about changing careers. Then she and her husband moved to Lansing around eight years ago when their first daughter was born and she decided to stay at home.
A former runner herself, she offered to be an assistant.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “She (Eisenhut) led them through an awesome season last year.”
Said Eisenhut, “Seeing her, I went to (Lansing athletic director) Adam Heck midway through the season and said, ‘If you don’t hire her, you’re crazy.’”
Both are passionate about the sport and their athletes, both in their actions and the way they speak about what they and their athletes have done. Lovenheim’s enthusiasm bubbles over when she thinks of how her specific runners act or what the community groups have come together to do in order to support this group.
“It is the most rewarding thing I think I’ve ever done,” Lovenheim said, adding the caveat of her professional career. “It’s a real honor, that’s what it is. When it comes down to it, it’s a real honor to get to be a part of some pretty amazing kids’ athletic experience. I remember my running experience and my coaches were really important. So it feels like a privilege.”
To read more about the Lansing cross country team, see page 7. Pick up next week's Lansing Ledger for how Eisenhut and Lovenheim have built the running community in Lansing.