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Athletes surprise legendary Richmond coach: 'It just gets better and better'

Posted at 7:34 PM, Jun 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-11 19:35:19-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Legendary Richmond track coach James Holdren was surprised by dozens of his current and former athletes at a luncheon in his honor Saturday afternoon.

Holdren, who currently coaches at Maggie Walker Governor's School, is celebrating 60 years of coaching as he continues to build his legacy far beyond the track.

James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching
James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching

The coaching legend is known for not just bringing back trophies, but bringing together a family of athletes.

In fact, Holdren’s Thomas Jefferson High Schools “Super Gals” track stars still turn out to celebrate their coach 40 years after they graduated.

“I could’ve taken a different route. A lot of the young ladies that grew up in neighborhoods where I grew up, we could have been on the other side of something that wasn't a good thing," said Sandee Smith, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson in 1970. "That is what kept us grounded — and we knew Coach Holdren would be there for us. And didn’t care where you lived in the City of Richmond, he just knew he wanted to help."

James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching
James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching

His athletes said he’s a coach that makes sure so many can go the distance far beyond the high school track. He was also instrumental in making sure students excelled and earned college scholarships.

"He's the calm that brings the best of us out," Smith said.

He does this all while still finding the time to teach young people life lessons.

“Coach has definitely taught me just persistence — to keep on pushing even when the times get tough. Focus what you’re passionate about,” said Quinn Neary of Maggie Walker’s Class of 2022.

James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching
James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching

Holdren hopes his lessons will continue to inspire his athletes.

“It's a feeling you have when you know that you've made a difference in somebody's life. And I've been able to have that feeling every day for 60 years," Holdren said. "You can see around here this is why you coach for 60 years. The kids are incredible. It just gets better and better."

Holdren said he does not plan to slow down anytime soon as long as his mind and heart keep working.

James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching
James Holdren of the Maggie Walker Governor's School celebrates 60 years of coaching

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