In Memory of Coach Trish Cunningham

We miss you, Coach Trish. We’re using this space to remember all the love and beauty you brought to our lives.

Friends and former athletes — send me your thoughts, memories, stories, and photos. I’ll post them here. You can also use the comment form below, and  I’ll add your thoughts to the main page.

Thoughts about Trish

On August 21, 2013, our beloved Coach, Trish Cunningham, died after being struck by a vehicle while riding her bike on Riva Road. Coach Trish, wife of Jerry Cunningham, was the mother of two former runners, Morgan and Ben, and one runner new to the team this week — Avery. She helped coach our team over the last two years, this year being her third.

trish_avery_downtownDan Masterson and I asked Trish to join the coaching staff in 2011, after her daughter, Morgan, graduated from the team and the school. Trish accepted our offer and had since served as a friend, coach, and inspiration to everyone involved with the team — athletes, coaches, and parents included. We sought out Trish because as a mom and field hockey coach she already had the respect of athletes on our team and the community.  It didn’t hurt that she was also faster than most of the runners on the team then and still was three years later.

trish_benTrish was a natural coach. The team trusted her because she was living proof that training hard would make you fast.  She trained hard.  She was fast. Young athletes saw that if they followed in her brisk footsteps, they too would be fast. It’s no coincidence that since Trish joined the staff, we’ve had three girls make the All County cross country squad, one of whom won the county championship.

webJMVz8030This is all to say nothing of Trish’s personality. With Trish, you never had any doubt that you were getting the honest truth from her. People often say that euphemistically about rude people who have trouble moderating what they say.  Not so with Trish — she was just an honest, genuine person. That she raised the three hard-working, honest, and likable children is no surprise. Trish was also one of few people in her 50s that you could say is still “young at heart,” and not mean, “she never grew up.” Of course, running kept her looking young. Most people who meet Trish react with disbelief when they heard that Trish was not, in fact, in her 30s. Through my tears, shock, and anger I took some small satisfaction in reading that the initial police report of the accident identified Trish as someone in her late 20s.

trish_teamIt’s fitting that the last time I was with Trish was yesterday at the end of practice the day she died. The last thing she did as a coach was teach our new athletes how to correctly do their core strength exercises. There was no better person than Trish to teach  strength: she lived strength.

I have a feeling that modest as she was, Trish wouldn’t want us to fuss too much over her. However, we love her too much not to. We love you, Trish, and we miss you already. Thankfully, we are blessed in that as Trish left us so tragically, another Cunningham — Avery — has joined our ranks. Avery, we’re ready for you whenever you’re ready for us.  Take your time.

Erik Westlund, AHS XC & Track coach, August 22, 2013

1006364_566560890074391_475252755_nI had the wonderful privilege of getting to coach alongside Trish for nearly two years until my job moved me across the country.  The two of us often got to work together as a coaching team – and I could always, always count on her dedication and bright spirit that she would bring to each practice, every meet – every situation, really.  Every runner and coach respected and looked up to her.  She inspired all those around her – pushing each of us towards excellence.  What a dedicated coach and parent!  Thank you “Coach Cunningham” for sharing your influence on our lives.

webJMVz7623The Cunningham family is in my family’s thoughts and prayers.

– Tim Captain, former AHS XC & Track Coach, August 22, 2013


One time I was running with Morgan, and Trish drove by and honked at us to say hi. Most runners have experienced their fair share of hecklers. Some runners ignore them (which is probably a good call) and some choose to make rude hand gestures… Earlier during that run we had been yelled at by several hecklers so I overreacted when I heard Trish honk. I had no idea it was her until Morgan started laughing. I was so embarrassed… I had just flicked off my coach! When I got home I sent her a text apologizing profusely. Turns out she thought it was hilarious and she agreed hecklers were obnoxious. Coach Trish always had a sense of humor and I will miss that about her.

Sarah Sykora, AHS XC & Track runner, August 22, 2013

webJMV_8629 croppedTrish always had a word of encouragement, a practical tip to solve your problem, reams of praise, uncanny insight, and the perfect funny line so you walked away with a smile.

Our deepest sympathies to her family and her team, The Bullen Family.

– The Bullen Family, August 22, 2013

In 2012, Trish turned in one of the most courageous running efforts I have ever seen. It was at Endless Summer, a hot, challenging 6-hour race in July in Quiet Waters Park, which she loved because she could run it as part of a team with her family—that year with Morgan and Avery. When it was her turn to run her last 4.1-mile lap, she only had 28 minutes left, less time than it had taken her to run her first lap, five and a half hours earlier. She had no chance to make it. To get any credit, the entire lap had to be completed, so the sensible thing would have been to bag it, and join all the other runners who were finished for the day, sitting in the shade, having cool drinks and chatting about the race.

She went for it.

webJMV_8588It was 90 degrees, and she had been running since 7:30 that morning. But she was at the park to run; and it was her turn, so she ran, period. It was a valiant attempt to achieve the impossible, and she almost made it! She came remarkably close to completing the entire lap, but did not seem to be bummed out by not making it. Most people would not have tried—and later been dissatisfied with themselves later for not trying. She tried, failed, and had no regrets, which to me was an inspiration.

webJMV_3250This year at Endless Summer, Trish was an inspiration in a different way. Jerry and Ben had been pressed into service on Team Cunningham. Trish and Morgan were hurt, but they were serving as course monitors/cheerleaders at one of the first turns on the course. Whenever I went by, she and Morgan came through with raucous energy and high spirits. The race is a long, hot day for volunteers too, but Trish showed no sign of weariness while her fellow runners needed encouragement, which we surely did. When I approached their post, I made it a point to pick my head up, get my feet moving; and at least look like I deserved the support that she provided me with such beauty and enthusiasm—and I know that her presence enabled me to add miles to my total race distance.

Thank you Trish!

– Tom DeKornfeld, August 22, 2013

webJMV_0249My senior year of high school, the girls’ cross country team lost a bunch of members and barely had a full roster. We did, however, gain an incredible new coach—Coach Trish. When it felt easy to give up before we started, she refused to take any complaints and sent us out running. When we wanted to take it easy or skip stretching, she was there to call us out and make us go back and give it a real effort. When you saw Coach Trish driving up to practice, you knew it was going to be a real workout day. Coach Trish didn’t take excuses from anyone and held us all to the incredibly high standards she imposed on herself, and I can only hope that I’ll keep holding myself to them as long as I can. Thank you for teaching me to expect more from myself.

– Joanna Guth, Former AHS XC & Track  runner, August 23, 2013

webJMV_8810adjTrishFrom a side-line’s mom: Trish coached my daughter, Mary, in both field hockey and lacrosse in the St. Mary’s Rec league for several years, last year culminating in a championship season. Trish is embedded in my daughter’s heart and mind now and will be forever. As a mother, I am grateful for Trish’s influence with Mary, not only as a coach, but as a caring person. Mary talks about Trish frequently, especially when other team coaches begin their work-out procedures. Mary will recall how Trish’s requirements were more stringent and because of it, she was prepared and ready. Trish’s voice resonates in her when it comes to discipline, persistence and attitude. I easily recognize Trish’s influence in how Mary approaches challenges with integrity and fortitude and will be forever grateful for what Trish has given my daughter. Trish is a person to admire and emulate for her unbelievable passions, strength, character, charity, discipline, virtue, family values, vigor, kindness, attitude, spirit, loyalty, and caring. Because of her astounding impression, she will always be alive in our hearts. Trish, thank you for being you and sharing yourself with us. God Bless You and Your Family.

– Catherine Gately, August 23, 2013

webJMV_2750Thank you Trish for always being glad to see me, always smiling and laughing at my tiresome jokes. For making me feel like a accomplished running when the clock suggested otherwise. For the Christmas cards I promised year after year to reciprocate, but never got around to.

For bringing wonderful childern into this world.

You were a joy to know and easy to be around. I will miss you.

– Christian Zazzali, August 23, 2013

webJMV_4816I had the privilege of meeting Trish when Morgan and my son began Kindergarten together at St. Mary’s. Our younger children were also the same age and in the same grade so we ended up having lots of play dates and good times together throughout our years at St. Mary’s. Trish was a wonderful friend who’s quirky sense of humor always made me laugh and I could always count on her to tell it like it is! We lost touch for awhile after her kids left St. Mary’s but we would see each other at church and I always looked forward to the Cunningham Christmas card. The last time I spoke with Trish was at the Cherry Pit 10 miler in April. We spent 15 minutes or so catching up on where the kids were going in the fall and we were excited that my son and Avery would be classmates again this year at Annapolis. She agreed to be my go to person for help since she was an experienced AHS mom and we parted saying that we were looking forward to seeing each other just like old times. It is devastating to know that will not happen. Trish was a wonderful person and I always admired her discipline, her candor, and dedication to whatever she was doing. I have so many wonderful memories of Trish that I am grateful for. Her dedication to her health and fitness was an inspiration while she lived. Her death has motivated me to work even harder at my own health and fitness goals because it would make her happy and because she would want us all to something positive in light of this trafedy. I will miss you Trish.

– Michelle Lucente, August 23, 2013

webJMVz6530Thank you Trish for your friendship, love and for giving so much to the running community. The Cunningham Family has forever changed running in Annapolis. You have influenced and inspired so many of us in so many ways. We are all blessed and better for knowing you. The proof is in the tears and hugs and broken hearts felt all over Annapolis. You continue to bring people together and strengthen us in friendship, in community and in running. I am forever grateful for your friendship. You are forever a part of me and of all those who know and love you.

– Kerri Reilly, August 23, 2013

In shock and heartbroken out here in Colorado. I remember Trish and the whole Cunningham clan as fixtures at local races when I lived in Annapolis. Trish, seemingly always smiling and obviously so proud of those three great kids she and Jerry raised. It’s clear from reading these tributes that Trish Cunningham touched the lives of many people in many ways. She made the world a better place and sadly left it far too soon.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Cunningham family.

– Mike Higgins, August 23, 2013

trish_avery_raceAmong Trish’s many talents I respected her most  as a mother.  Over the years,  we talked a good deal about her children and their welfare, not just as runners but as teenagers, students and young people  trying to cope with the challenges of that tender age.  All of our children ran for Annapolis so we had a mutual point of reference.  Trish was a loving but no nonsense  mom who did her very best to raise her children with that  difficult balance.  At her side was her husband Jerry of whom she spoke so often.  Running was only a part of what held this remarkable family together. Trish and Jerry spent a great amount of time with her children in many activities   She worked hard at being a mom just as she did with everything else in her life.  As partners in every way, Trish and Jerry raised a wonderful family held together by love and energized by running.  Trish and Jerry had their priorities exactly right.  My life and those of Annapolis High runners is better for knowing Trish Cunningham.  She will be missed in many ways.

 – Dan Masterson, AHS XC & Track coach, August 23, 2013

webJMVz1746I didn’t know Trish, but I am very moved by her passing. I respect her enthusiasm to live life to the fullest, to reach out to those that she could influence, and to make a difference in the world around her. It is obvious that she touched so many, and that her legacy will live on through her family and through her team and so many others. Her life, while seemingly short, was well lived and will inspire many. I am running the Annapolis 10 miler this sunday. I will think of the many words that I read here this evening, and I will certainly run to my fullest potential with her in mind.

– Patricia Myers, August 23, 2013

webJMV_9520Trish, a friend, mother, wife and so much more also became one of my ‘go to’ persons when my son started Annapolis High last year. I respected her parenting candidness, sense of humor, athleticism, toughness and calm. It’s a devastating loss for the family, the school and the community. It comes to no surprise then that after sending a ‘meal delivery’ email out to our Autumn Chase community that our neighbors signed up in less than 24 hours to cover much of the shedule through September. We’ll try to keep it all healthy and protein enriched Trish so your family can be strong just lke you were. Know that while your daughters continue to babysit mine, that I will be watching over them on your behalf. I will never forget our conversations and smiles. It is through these dialogues we had where I respected her parenting candidness, sense of humor, athleticism, toughness and calm. It’s a devastating loss for the family, the school and the community.

– Ginger Vance, August 23, 2013′

webJMVz8022I met Trish through running with the Annapolis striders and in the short time I was fortunate to know her, she was inspirational for me both as a mother and a runner. Her ability to pass on her love for running on to her children and make it a family event is something I hope to be able to do with my two children. She was always at the races with a smile and encouraging words which is something I looked forward to when attending these events and I will greatly miss.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Cunningham family, and to all those whose lives Trish has so positively touched.

– Amanda Beal, Former AHS XC coach, August 24, 2013

1977 May QueenTrish was an absolute role model in aspect of my life: coach, athlete, mentor, parent. What a gift she was to this town and school. Her gifts will continue to give through her amazing children.

– Brooke Walsh, AHS Teacher, August 27, 2013

To be honest, the first year Coach Trish made us little middle schoolers run what seemed like endless loops around germantown fields I thought she was crazy! My motto back then was definitely only run when being chased. I remember running before practice thinking ok, no other teams on these fields are running like we are, what is Coach Trish thinking? I think even the assistant coaches were questioning this tactic. Coach Trish pulled us all into a little bubble when she coached, if you took a second to look around you late into practice, you would realize that there were no other teams left on the field, it was getting dark and cold and all our parents waiting anxiously in the parking lot. Coach Trish kept us all so focused and engaged that we often stayed late to make sure we ran our drills to perfection.

sb.trishI distinctly remember one practice near the end of the season where Coach Trish had timed each one of our miles and then sat us all down in a circle to talk, like she always did. It was then that I think we all realized the method to the madness. She had recorded our mile times when we first started running and reminded us of how far we had come. She pulled Jamie Ruland, literally under four feet tall at the time, up off the field and pointed to her little calves now swollen with muscle.
I realized then and now that even though she taught us all how to play the best middle school field hockey around, she was secretly just crafting us into future athletes, teammates, leaders and tough people. Yes the running made us all fast as blue lightning on the field, but it also taught us discipline and that if we practiced harder than any other team in the league, all our hard work would pay off when we out performed every one of our opponents. All of us played to our full potential during games because if you did, you would usually be welcomed off the field with a huge hug from Coach Trish who would say something like, “Oh that pass what just incredible, I could kiss you!”

I stopped playing field hockey years ago, but I am now a college swimmer and an avid runner. I still use the skills I learned from Coach Trish in every athletic endeavor I take on today. I developed my passion for running back then, and I am so grateful for that. I never would have run six half marathons with that old “run when only being chased” mentality.

I can speak on behalf of our whole little field hockey team when I say Coach Trish was the best coach I have ever had. Now every time I lace up my running shoes and head out for a run, my new motto will be “Run like Trish!”

– Sarah Bouchard, August 27, 2013

webJMV_3508 There was nothing better than going for a run with Coach Trish. Not only did she always have me struggling to keep up, but we always had fun conversation. Throughout high school i was never much of a competitive runner because I focused on lacrosse, and she completely understood that. Being a former lacrosse player herself, she introduced me to Avery’s youth team and invited me to come help coach. That’s what i admired most. She picked out people’s strengths and urged them to share their knowledge. Throughout this past year I ended up quitting lacrosse and I started to focus on running. I could always count on Coach Trish to be down at the track ready to run and give me advice. She told me to run the B&A Half Marathon and that I should sign up right away because it gets full fast. I signed up that same night and the next day it was closed. I trained hard, took her advice and ended up running faster than i ever thought i could. I remember her telling me “with the right coaching you can be an awesome runner”. I am now running at the college level simply because she always told me it was possible. I was fortunate enough to have seen coach Trish the day before i left for school, and the blessings she gave me will forever remain in my heart. I will be running like Trish, for Trish.

– Katie Govatos, Former AHS XC runner, August 29, 2013

runliketrishHello Everyone,

Words can’t express the wonderful joy and consolation we experienced on reading your comments about our daughter, Trish.It was a great shock to lose her, she was such a kind and generous person in addition to her exploits running and coaching lacrosse, field hockey, track and cross country.

She was also a religious person, attending daily Mass and praying in the chapel often.

Please pray for her and especially for Jerry, Morgan, Ben and Avery.


John & Carolyn Naughton

P.S. Run like Trish!