While many Ready to Run customers know Scott Hippensteel as a hands-on owner of the store, they may not know that he’s also a longtime track and cross-country coach at Lockhart High School. During his nearly 35 years coaching there, he’s had the privilege of working with some terrific kids, including Tommy Bonn and Rory Tunningley, who went on to become great runners. But if you ask any of them, the real privilege was being coached by Hippensteel.
One such athlete who recalls the lessons he learned under Hippensteel’s tutelage is Jon Santiago, a well-known Massachusetts state representative and prominent figure in the Boston health arena.
Santiago competed on the cross-country team from 1996 through his graduation in 2000, and during that time the Lions placed second at the UIL cross-country meet in 1997, won state in 1998, second in 1999, and won again in 2000. Santiago, who went on to become an ER doctor at Boston’s Medical Center, a Peace Corps volunteer and a current major in the U.S. Army Reserve, said that he owes much of who he is today to the lessons he learned at Lockhart High, especially those championed by Hippensteel.
“Coach was so successful because he would literally stand outside the classroom and get everyone to run. And he got all the basketball players to run, too. Coach made the whole freshman basketball team run the cross-country district meet in our basketball practice uniforms.”
Santiago recalls that Hippensteel was very successful in attracting kids from lower socioeconomic families. “He would teach them, inspire them, motivate them and help them realize their untapped potential. Coach was so good at motivating people,” said Santiago. “He’d talk to us about the determination it takes to be successful, overcoming adversity, and how to set goals. I still remember him giving me a talk about how to be fiscally responsible! He wanted to instill a strong drive in his athletes. That’s what Coach is all about. He does much more than train runners. He trains men and women to become good citizens.”
Hippensteel, himself a former standout runner for Texas, has always been an equal opportunity coach. “I believe that every single person can contribute,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter how good you are when you start. For me it’s all about getting kids to improve themselves as both runners and human beings. If we perfect all the little things like language and behavior, the big things come along with it. Doing things right. Being good people, doing our best. The other things fall into pace like dominos,” added Hippensteel, who also serves as Lockhart High’s assistant athletic director.
Santiago, who now lives in Boston, was sworn into office as a Massachusetts state representative in 2019, a year before COVID hit, and had just finished his medical residency and run the Boston Marathon. On May 20, he was honored at a Boston Red Sox/Seattle Mariners game in Fenway Park for his service as an ER physician throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santiago’s message to today’s graduates is simple. “I’ve come a long way from Lytton Springs and Lockhart, but those experiences continue to shape who I am,” said Santiago, now 40. “About 20 years ago, I was in your shoes. I was a little nervous. I don’t think many people would have given me a shot to become the person I am today. Y’all can do the same thing. Our communities have so much untapped potential. Once you realize your potential, you have an obligation to not leave your own community behind.”
Upcoming races: Saturday, June 18, at 8:00 a.m., the Dos Rios Splash and Dash 5K at Cypress Bend Park in New Braunfels. Saturday, June 18, at 7:30 a.m., Thumpin’ 5K in Luling. Saturday, June 25. Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series – 60K, 30K, 20K, 10K, 5K trail run at Pedernales Falls. Events start at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and end at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday.