Bald head spurs runners
Owner Steven Liebhauser, of Jamestown, also volunteers as the coach of the Quest Montessori middle school cross-country team in Exeter. Liebhauser knows the kids get nervous prior to meets so to lighten the mood at the start of the season, he made a deal with his team. If a Quest student placed first, second or third, Coach Liebhauser promised he would shave his head. "Sure enough, in the first race, islander Olivia Frank placed sixth, in the second race she placed second and that was that," recalled Liebhauser with a chuckle. "She had barely crossed the finish line and could hardly breathe and was reminding me that I promised to shave my head, just in case I forgot."
The next day Frank got to work on her coach's hair with the clippers prior to practice. "That was a little scary, but it was not something I could back down on," added Liebhauser.
When asked if she thought she or one of her teammates could place in the top three, Frank said "no, because he (Liebhauser) said there would be so many runners and there are only nine of us, so I was pretty sure we wouldn't." Frank was surprised by her success and was thinking about her coach's bet when she crossed the finish line, "but I never thought he would do it, and then he showed up the next day with his shaver."
Following the head shaving, Frank placed first in the Oct. 4 Southern Division Cross Country Meet at Narragansett Pier Middle School against Exeter-West Greenwich, Chariho and Narragansett Pier Middle Schools. At an invitational meet on Oct. 11, Frank placed sixth out of 130 girls. As a seventh grader, this is only Frank's second season running. "Olivia is a natural athlete and just a great kid. She is an inspiration for all the kids on the team," said Liebhauser.
The cross-country season is short, with only four meets prior to Southern Division Championships and States. The races are an average of two miles and for many kids this is their first experience with competitive running. When Liebhauser started practices in early September, not one of them could even finish the practice run. The team has come a long way and "all of the kids times have improved in every single race," according to Liebhauser.
As a third year coach, Liebhauser has nine students on his team- six from Jamestown- including his son Michael. In addition to Frank, Nathan Housberg, Eli Mitchell, McKensie Marsh and Sam Valentine round out the island presence. As another challenge, Liebhauser runs with the team during practice and he makes sure to run faster than them even though he is not an experienced runner. "All of the kids sprint at the end to try and beat me," Liebhauser joked.
When asked about any future challenges, Liebhauser said "it was a fun thing to do but I am pretty much done with the wacky inspirational type stuff. There is nothing else coming off as far as I know."