Dustin Poole, an autism support aide in the Phoenixville Area School District, has his own experiences with adversity.
The former track star at neighboring Spring-Ford who's since returned to his alma matter as a coach, Poole's path to the present is not a conventional one, as his college career was unfortunately cut short due to administrative decisions.
"I went on to Cabrini," he said. "My first year there I did winter track and the spring. I only did triple jump there. For some reason they didn’t want me to do hurdles. I stopped for a year and then junior year they wanted me to come back and do it, but they cut our track program. So, I just focused on academics from there on out."
His desire to give back rested on the amount of time, energy and care the Spring-Ford coaching staff, which remains intact today, gave to him and his teammates.
"Every time I had a break, I would come out and once I graduated, I started working back at Phoenixville and said I wanted to volunteer my time," he said. "I remember everything these coaches put in to us and I wanted to give back that same sense of value and morals in the community. Just enjoying a sport that you love."
Poole majored in psychology at Cabrini College and now works at the Phoenixville School District in Autistic Support. His work in Phoenixville takes him back a bit to his old days.
"I started track in seventh grade," he said. "I was at Phoenixville. In the middle of basketball season, I moved to Mont Clare. That was Spring-Ford school district. I was a little upset. I grew up in Phoenixville all my life. I come to a new school, you know, you don’t know too many people. So, seventh and eighth grade, I started running track. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I thought I may be good at track. I just did it because I liked running. I did pretty well at the PAC-10s in eighth grade. Then, ninth grade I was really into it."
During Poole's freshman year, the program didn’t have too many 400-meter runners, so he was able to run at the Penn Relays that year. He continued his successes into his sophomore and junior years.
"Coach D[eAngelo] wanted me to do hurdles," he said. "He saw my height and my speed. As time went on, I just started to progress as a 400 runner. I ran the 200, they had me run the 800 a couple of times. I ended up being in a 4x100 at Penn Relays. As I as progressing, me and Leighon, he was only a year ahead of me, it started to seem like it was a sport I was really beginning to love."
Junior year, Poole began the triple jump, along with Johnson, and eventually really came into his own.
"I hated the workouts, because they were really hard, but I loved the team," he explained. "The atmosphere here was so amazing that I didn’t want to do any other sport. So, my senior year, I just did winter track and spring track and that was it. Everyone was a family and a friend. There wasn’t too much gossip going on. The coaches loved you, they took care of you, anything you needed. So, just to have that build."
By senior year, Poole was named the Most Valuable Player of the program. He made it to states in the indoor season for hurdles, districts for hurdles during the outdoor season, won the PAC-10 Championship for the triple jump and came in second at PAC-10s for both hurdle events.
"I had some really good accomplishments, but I think my biggest accomplishment was the MVP," he said. "That’s what I was working for so hard and just to lead the team as the captain."
So, it was only natural that Poole wanted to give back his time to the program that disciplined him so well. As he continues through this year, Poole hopes to figure out his destiny. He said he wants to either get a Master's degree in education or go back to school for guidance counseling training.
In the meantime, he wants to put out a lasting impression and lession to the current Spring-Ford athletes.
"To have a love for the sport," he said. "If they don’t in themselves have a love for it, they won’t enjoy it. I try to tell them that they’re going to have some bad days running, especially coaching hurdles. You trip over a hurdle, you might have a horrible day, just because the way you feel. But, you just have to have a love for the sport. That’s the biggest thing I want to teach them. To come out here and have fun."
Poole concluded with gratitude for the program and kind words to the kids.
"I always like to thank Mr. McDaniel," he said. "He always hires a very good coaching staff in every single sport. Every sport I played at Spring-Ford, I enjoyed to the fullest. The coaching staff is just amazing. When you have that, it’s always good. When you have a coach you don’t like, it’s going to deter you from it. So, thank you to the coaching staff that I wanted to come back to volunteer my time. I’m not doing it for money, I just love these kids and this program and I want to give back."