FREDERICKTOWN — “He was the epitome of sportsmanship. He was just an absolutely gracious man.”
Those words from St. Vincent de Paul School track coach, Chip Wendt, reflect the feelings of many area athletes and coaches, along with the family and friends of long-time area track coach Dave Geiger. All remember a man, who gave selflessly and did remarkable things in a quiet way. Geiger, 70, passed away Saturday, leaving behind a well of memories.
“One of my best memories is that he would help kids from other schools at high jump,” said Wendt, who also teaches at Highland High School, where he once coached. “He would help them get their steps down. He would help them with their take off step up to the bar. He would always help them with that. He didn’t care if that kid had, ‘Fredericktown’ on their jersey or not. He just wanted to help kids do well and be successful.”
As an assistant coach at Fredericktown for the past 12 seasons, Geiger had a knack for bringing out the best in his athletes.
“He had the ability to recognize talents in an athlete when the athlete, themself, couldn’t recognize it,” said Bob Geiger, Dave Geiger’s son and current Fredericktown track and field coach. “In other words, he could take the skinny, little freshman, work with them, and they would end up being the 6-foot-1 kid on the state podium. He could inspire them to do things that they didn’t realize they could do.”
It was Dave Geiger’s steady guidance that calmed Fredericktown high jumper Carolyn Webster at last spring’s regional meet in Lancaster. Down to her final jump in front of a large crowd, the freshman leapt into a state berth on her final attempt.
“He just told me to take deep breaths and compose myself before I made that jump,” Webster, now a sophomore, recalled. “He told me to ‘make a mental jump.’ That was what he always used to tell me. I focused myself into the task at hand. I didn’t think about anything else.”
“He worked his magic,” said Bob Geiger. “He did that a lot. What he always tried to do was project calm and confidence. I think he’s the best high jump coach that I have ever been around — high jump and long jump.”
Two time state long jump qualifier Tayler Carpenter, a former Fredericktown athlete who currently attends Malone University, remembers the confidence that Dave Geiger helped instill in her.
“He was a very patient man,” said Carpenter. “He had such a positive attitude. He always saw the good and the potential in people. I was at state in my senior year, I was getting ready to take my last jump in the prelims of the long jump. We were joking about going for the school record. I remember looking at him and saying, ‘I’m going for the school record,’ and we laughed. On the next jump, I popped off and broke the record. That was just an inside thing between the two of us. I said it to him and we were the only two that realized what had just happened.”
He had a special way with the people he coached and with everyone else.
“He cared about people,” said Fredericktown long jump record holder Nathan Cubbage. “He was really a good role model for everybody. He was very kind and caring and he really knew what he was talking about when it came to high jump.”
“He was an incredible person, who touched so many young lives,” said Former Fredericktown jumper and sprinter Sarah Gearheart, now Sarah Wombold, who lives in Hawaii, where the US Army has stationed her husband. “He always went the extra mile and he was very encouraging.”
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