Father-daughter coaching duo Steve and Ashley Masterson’s mutual passion for track and field and cross country is long running – it even predates the latter’s first steps.
“Since before I could walk I think I’ve been dragged around to track and cross country meets,” Ashley said. She remembers as a child helping post scores in the days before the sport, which she considers herself “born into,” went digital.
In her high school years, Ashley was athletic – volleyball, soccer, track and field and cross country were her sports – but she said she never accomplished “anything amazing.”
She has in her more recent role coaching Neil McNeil’s cross country and track teams alongside her dad, who retired in 2014 but continues to volunteer: Ashley and her dad have helped lead Neil McNeil’s cross country team to victory together since 2008.
The catholic high school has claimed titles at the Toronto District Catholic Athletic Association (TDCAA) Cross Country Championships for a decade straight, qualifying for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) provincial championships every year as well, a point of pride for the two.
“Part of the streak that I’m actually even more proud of is that in that 10-year period all three teams qualified to OFSAA,” Steve said. “So we’ve had 30 teams, like, divisional teams, qualify for an OFSAA which is… a pretty neat trick.”
Accomplishments aplenty, there is still no trophy room inside Steve’s Scarborough Road home. Instead, the coaches put the spotlight on students who have persevered, such as Neil McNeil alumnus Andrew Alexander, who graduated last year.
“Now he’s on a scholarship at Notre Dame – that’s pretty big,” said Ashley. “All the kids progress, but I would say in the course of my time [Andrew] has been the most successful.”
Like their students, Steve and Ashley have developed throughout their time working together as well. Despite Steve leading his progeny by about 30 years of experience, he said he has learned from Ashley.
“Old dogs can learn new tricks,” he said. “I’ve learned to be a little bit more compassionate as I’ve gotten older,” laughed Steve, who when teaching at Jean Vanier Catholic High School coached Neil McNeil running coach Jason Wood.
Ashley, too, has learned her share of lessons. “I think what I’ve learned from him is just how important it is to give back,” she said. “A lot of people who end up coaching and becoming teachers are people who’ve had great experiences when they were kids.”
What interests the coaches in running is yet another thing they share in common.
“If you’ve done well you know you did well, and if you didn’t do well, you can’t blame it on anybody else… whereas a football team, you can kind of hide and say, ‘Well, it just wasn’t me,’” Steve said. Seated beside him in his living room Ashley added, “I like that individual aspect, too.”