JIM PETERS: Jeff Rhody succeeding a legend at Lake Central

2013-08-08T17:00:00Z 2013-08-09T01:11:11Z JIM PETERS: Jeff Rhody succeeding a legend at Lake CentralJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
August 08, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

For somebody who never ran distance in high school or college, Rudy Skorupa sure developed an affinity for cross country.

You don't do something for four decades without having a passion for it.

"In this day and age, people don't stick around 40 years, let alone at the same school," said Jeff Rhody, Skorupa's assistant for 15 years at Lake Central.

"That's dedication. Rudy loves runners. He loves to be around them. They hold a special place in his heart."

Skorupa was a track standout at DePauw, where he has been inducted into the athletic hall of fame. After graduation, he came to St. John and immediately got involved in coaching. A year into it, he became boys cross country coach, despite having no background in it.

"It was like, oh, by the way, you're the coach," Rhody said. "He got books on running. He began running so he'd know what they were going through."

In time, Skorupa developed a solid, competitive program and became one of its most respected coaches.

"There are different things you can do with physiology, but cross country is one sport where the more you practice, the better you're going to get," Rhody said.

"That's always rung true with me. If you keep running, you can't help but get better."

As practice for the 2013 season officially started this week, 26 of Lake Central's 30 runners had a new head coach for the first time since the mid-70s. Skorupa retired in the spring and Rhody took the reins.

Pressure? What pressure?

"It's always hard following a legend," Rhody said. "It's hard not to keep a lot of what he did. He perfected it. There are things we discussed. It's a fresh start.

"I've been told by several people, 'You're not Rudy.' I have to be my own person. You always feel pressure. You don't want to screw up something that's been so successful. There are little things you want to change, but you wonder if it's going to take away from the program."

In addition to their track and cross country ties, Rhody and Skorupa were the only physics teachers at the high school. Their families have also become close.

"Rudy's been so great to me," Rhody said. "He's been a great classroom mentor as well as on the coaching side. He and his wife (Peggy) have opened their arms to our family. They're like surrogate grandparents to our kids."

On Aug. 31, L.C. will honor Skorupa with the running of the inaugural invitational bearing his name. In his typical self-effacing manner, Skorupa offered to help however he can.

"Rudy's so well-respected, not just around the school, but the (Duneland Athletic) conference and the state," Rhody said. "It's been great to watch and learn from him.

"He's such a controlled person, extremely humble. It's always been about the kids. That's one thing I want to reflect going forward."

You can be sure the meet won't be the only one Skorupa attends.

"He always had his favorite meets, New Prairie, Culver (Academy)," Rhody said. "If he wants to be there, he'll be welcome there. You don't coach a sport 40 years and not feel ties to it.

"He's in such great physical shape, he can retire and enjoy himself. He doesn't have to ride buses."

Skorupa may have passed along the steering wheel, but his fingerprints remain.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best boys cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News

Latest Local Offers

Featured Businesses