Q/A with Boys Cross Country and Track Coach Ryan Willis


Coach Willis debriefs the team about its performance following a race early on in the cross country season this year.

Boys cross country and distance track head coach Ryan Willis has had a successful year leading his teams to districts and regionals throughout his debut year.  Willis has had a positive impact upon many athletes throughout each season.

“Coach Willis has really pushed me to improve on cross country and track and helps us with training plans and race strategy,” says Senior Bennett Stenberg as he concludes his fourth year running with Annandale.


How long have you been coaching? 

I officially started coaching the summer of 2019.


Did you run cross country or track in your high school years? 

I started running my sophomore year in high school when my PE teacher introduced me to the sport.


What inspired you to start coaching? 

I have been working with youth as a mentor and teacher since 2012. I enjoy helping people develop as young adults and to help push them achieve things they never believed were possible.


Are you coaching outside of Annandale?

I help train and develop unified coaches in the DC area. Unified coaches are sports coaches that have players with and without intellectual abilities.


How has your first year been as head coach? 

My first year as a head coach has been very unusual due to the pandemic and all the challenges that came along with it. Luckily, I have been able to work alongside a great group of coaches that not only know what they are doing, but truly care for every student athlete. My first year has also gone smoothly because of all of the seniors on the team. The seniors have done a great job leading the team and being positive role models for the younger runners.


What surprised you the most throughout your first year as head coach? 

It surprised me to see how supportive everyone was. Family members, teachers, other coaches, and also the great leadership and support from the Athletic Director, John Ellenberger.


What are your best memories from coaching? 

Seeing the moment when athletes achieve a goal, big or small, and are finally able to understand and appreciate the hard work they put in. The moments when an athlete breaks a new barrier and achieves a new personal record is always wonderful to see. And this year we have seen major improvements from each runner that stuck with the program.


Are you satisfied with how the year has turned out with the Track/ XC teams? 

I am very satisfied and appreciative to the school, county and state for working hard to make sports a reality. Of course it isn’t an ideal sports year, but at least there were still opportunities to compete and represent the school.


Has COVID affected your coaching and relationship with the athletes? 

COVID did make it difficult to spend as much time with the team as normal, but because of technology and the runners already having a strong bond, we were able to stay connected and check on one another through our Team App and the Strava App.


What are your goals for the teams in the next few years? 

My goal is to build a strong team of 25 runners. It would be nice to build a team that is strong enough to make it to states, but my main goal is to create long lasting friendships and memories for all of the runners on the team.