Ascension
Start writing a post
Sports

Ascension

Joe Tribble fights every struggle in his life in the same way: The right way

3062
Ascension
Clyde Click

You know that warm tingling feeling in your teeth and fingertips after a run? When you’re gasping for air, and all you can feel is life as you know it being restored to your lungs and body?

Joe Tribble knows it all too well on most days. But today wasn’t like most days. Today, Joe Tribble was late.

On Running Through History, a trip that Joe leads every summer through Europe, being late isn’t an option. In the summer of 2016, some boys learned that the hard way.

We had just arrived at a train station in Austria. It was night by now, and the entire group was exhausted from a full day of travel. A group of guys decided to leave the station to grab some McDonald’s before the connecting train came.

While Joe remains the shining example of what a McDonald’s connoisseur should look like, the trip itinerary said nothing about getting food. And the trip itinerary was of biblical importance as far as we were concerned.

While the boys voyaged on their happy meal quest, Joe began to pace around the station. His awkward gait was accelerated slightly, and every kid in the group knew what it meant. Tribble was angry.

I had moved further away from where the boys would arrive in anticipation of the impending explosion. The boys returned, stomachs full, to find Tribble pacing around the station ready to explode. Except he didn’t.

Even though Tribble never actually screamed, I knew why he wanted to. It wasn’t because the kids had gotten food for themselves and left the rest of the students hungry. Nor was it because they had failed to heed Tribble Time, a standard that required students to be 5 minutes early to every scheduled event. It was because he cared. It’s funny how some people show that they care.

Tribble Time rang in my head as I looked around for Joe. Still nowhere to be found. Then, I got a call.

“Jack, I’m down at the gym. It was nearly impossible to find a parking spot. I’m so sorry.”

How could I be angry at the man?

He changed the course of my last year at Westminster, the school I called home for 12 years.

It all started at the Gaisburg mountain in Austria, where the Running Through History group goes for a run every year. After I had finished running, Joe came over to me. I was doubled over, begging for air. He bent down so we could talk on my level.

“Schlafly, you have to run for the cross country team this season.”

I was on the football team too, but I couldn’t let him down. So, when I decided to run cross country and play football, we both knew that I wouldn’t be able to make cross country practices. Joe, now nearing 60, decided that he would run twice a week at 6 a.m. before school with me, then teach his history classes and run with the rest of the team after school.

***

I jogged to the gym to meet him. His hair was even shorter than before, and I knew why. His wife, Gail.

Gail had cancer for the second time. The stress of caring for his wife has undoubtedly taken a toll on Joe, but you’ll never see him wear it on his sleeve. He cares too much about his conversation with you to let that happen.

But today, just he and I in his office, the lasting imprint that cancer has on its many victims takes clear form in Joe. He stretches his legs, the ones that carried him through years of high school and college running at the University of Georgia, and repeatedly tries to get loose enough to run. It’s not working.

While he’s stretching, I start looking around his office. I say his office, but he does share it with the golf coach. Vintage pictures of Joe with former runners line the walls and his desk.

One of those pictures is with James Ottley, a graduate of Westminster back in 1989.

“He had a great combination of humor and seriousness,” says Ottley. A prime example of Tribble’s humor lies in a rather peculiar furniture commercial. A man with thick grey hair that wrapped around his face would talk about the furniture at his warehouse and conclude the commercial with his trademark line, “Hey, ask for the Wolfman.”

I reminded Joe of the Wolfman as we began our run, and a wide smile grew across his face as he turned back the clock to his younger self.

“Hey, ask for the Wolfman,” he said in as good of a country accent as he could muster. I didn’t need to remind him of the line.

It was right around that time that I realized we were jogging at a walking pace. The countless miles, along with his current case of a cold, have taken a toll on Joe like they would on anyone else. Joe hasn’t always been so fatigued, though. In his early days as the cross-country coach at Westminster, Joe would lead the pack in every workout.

“He was literally and figuratively right there with you during workouts,” says Eric O’Brien, a graduate of Westminster in 1992. “He was different than other coaches in the sense that he truly led by example.”

***

Along with running in the wee hours of the morning so I could perform my best and leading a group of 50 high school students on a trip through Europe, there are little things Joe does that often go unnoticed.

One of those deeds occurred at just over 10,000 feet. My friend Will and I had shadowed Tribble for much of the hike as the group made its way up the fifth-highest mountain in Switzerland, the Matterhorn. Just several hundred feet from our goal of reaching the Hörnli Hut, the second hut on the often-used route in the ascent of the mountain, the group had no choice but to head back down due to a lack of appropriate weather and time.

Coming so close to the goal made the hike that much more excruciating, and Joe was as crushed as anyone to receive defeat on the mountain. As Will and I turned around to head back on the route we had traveled minutes prior, Joe offered to take a picture of us.

He moved right towards the edge of the four-foot-wide trail in order to get the best angle for the picture. He snapped one before realizing that a better picture was possible. This time Joe stepped even closer to the edge, no more than two feet away from a seemingly endless drop off the southeast face of the mountain.

Joe had come close to death—to the point when Will and I had to ask him to go no further— so that we had a picture that will last a lifetime. And for the record, it really was a better shot.

***

Joe and I now found our long-lost 6 a.m. rhythm as we jogged along the winding roads that surround Westminster.

“Why do you treat everyone on your team the same?” I ask, out of the blue.

Joe responds, without hesitation. “Because the Bible says I should.”

In high school cross country, only seven runners are allowed to run in the all-important state meet at the end of the season. While the Westminster cross country team typically consists of around 40 runners, which means that over three-quarters of the runners don’t technically count towards a state championship, Joe has never seen it that way.

“You never know who might end up helping your team,” he adds.

It’s his unwavering confidence in runners one through 40 that has made Joe a favorite of so many students.

Scott Blusiewicz, who graduated from Westminster in 1998, knows all about Tribble’s care for every runner.

At his first ever track practice during his freshman year of high school, Blusiewicz didn’t have the right shoes. The practice ended as quickly as any running session can, and Scott headed home. Later that night, his home phone rang.

It was Joe.

“I remember him saying how I had done well for my first day,” Blusiewicz says. “But I needed running shoes. It really meant a lot to me as a freshman that he cared about me.”

***

There are a plethora of reasons why someone wakes up at 6 a.m. Today, Joe’s up to do chores before he and Gail head to her cancer treatment.

“It makes life a little bit easier for her,” he says as he empties the dishwasher. Now he’s outside walking the dog, a “chore” that he wishes Gail could still do.

Being the first one awake in a house can often provide a sense of serenity. On this morning though, as the sun climbs above the horizon, Joe hardly has peace.

“I’ve questioned whether I’m truly committed to victory in this thing,” he says as doubt wrinkles his face. Even for Joe, a man who’s accomplished so much in academics, sports, and life as a whole, he still questions his own drive, the fundamental aspect that has brought him all his success.

Constant trips to the cancer center can make any man question his own makeup. Joe typically grades papers while he waits for Gail during treatment. He stays on top of his work, but I can only imagine the lengths he might go to in order to keep his mind off Gail’s battle a couple doors down. Cancer’s branches travel deep into family trees.

The room is now overbearingly silent. For the first time since I’ve known Joe, he has nothing to say. After taking a couple deep breaths, he speaks again.

“I would give everything to make Gail healthy again. Everything.”

I believe him.

Joe told me that day in his classroom that he was willing to die for Gail.

***

When your house burns down, life can feel like an unclimbable mountain. When your wife has cancer, that mountain gets even higher. Joe’s challenges can at times seem like simply too much. Everyone has those challenges. They may not be as in-your-face or as grave as Joe’s are, but they wedge themselves into your everyday life.

Whenever I think of a mountain, I think of Joe and the time he took that picture.

We weren’t going to make it to the second hut that day, but Joe wasn’t fazed. Nothing was going to take away from his effort to make other people happy.

Joe can’t lead workouts like he used to. He can’t be right there, running alongside his runners as they fight up another hill. But you better believe he’s still around, cheering his runners on. And when you’re a runner for Tribble, you’re his runner for life. He’ll always be by your side, cheering you on as you fight the good fight against whatever hills lie ahead.


Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Olivia White

"The American flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies from the last breath of each solider who died protecting it."

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Separation Anxiety in Pets

Separation anxiety in pets is a real thing and recognizing the warning signs is important.

206188

Since March, Covid-19 required most of the world to quarantine in their homes. Majority of people ended up working from home for nearly five months. This meant pet owners were constantly with their pets giving them attention, playing with them, letting them out etc. Therefore, when the world slowly started to open up again and pet owners began returning to normal life work schedules away from the home, pet owners noticed a difference in the way their pet acted. Many pets develop separation anxiety especially during this crazy time when majority people were stuck inside barely leaving the house.

Keep Reading... Show less
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

362945

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers

1763784

Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

1117918
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

995393
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

654551
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments