When Beth Arey was a sophomore in college, her mother bought her a new car and Arey got to choose the personalized license plate she wanted most.

The car is long gone – but Arey still has the love of running that led her to pick XC-TRK 3 (that stands for cross-country and track), and she still has that license plate.

Now she also has a new job.

Arey has been named the new head girls cross-country coach at Evanston Township High School, succeeding Rosette Ochoa, who resigned after the season last fall to pursue a college degree.

A standout runner herself at Downers Grove North and Lewis University, Arey will try to continue the success the Wildkits achieved during Ochoa’s tenure. The Kits qualified at least one individual runner for the Illinois High School Association state finals for six straight seasons before that string was snapped last fall.

But six of Evanston’s top seven runners return from that team, including individual sectional qualifier Stella Davis.

Arey has served as College & Career Services Coordinator at ETHS since 2009 and coached at Northwestern University and St. Rita High School previously. This is her first opportunity to lead a program, and if you’ll pardon the pun, she plans to hit the ground running.

She’s already consulted with Ochoa, who tried to bring her into the program as an assistant at one point when Arey had to focus on raising her three children.

“I guess now I look at my experience with running and coaching as unfinished business, so the timing is right for me,” Arey explained. “I’ve counseled some of the girls in the cross-country and track programs and I’d get exciting just talking to them about their running. It was a cool connection to have, and the idea of getting engaged with running again is exciting for me.

“There was something magical to me about the cross-country experience when I ran, the team environment, the pasta dinners. What I want for the girls, No. 1 and No. 50, is for them to enjoy the sport and to enjoy coming to practice every day. Another big thing for us will be setting goals, reasonable goals for all of them. I really want to have a competitive program.”

The new ETHS coach – maiden name Beth Bayser – was a three-time state cross-country qualifier, placing 30th at the IHSA state finals as a junior. She also blazed her way to All-State recognition in track with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter race and qualified for state all four years, either as an individual or on a relay team.

From there, Arey ran cross-country and track at Southern Illinois University for two years, then transferred to Lewis.

“I felt like I was being overtrained when I was at Southern by the coach there,” she said. “I was putting in twice as much mileage, and I was constantly sick or injured. I just felt like I needed a change.”

It was definitely a change for the better. Arey went on to become a seven-time All-American at Lewis, where she twice won the 800 at the prestigious Drake Relays and just missed turning in a fast enough half-mile time to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Trials.

She was an assistant coach for the women’s cross-country program at Northwestern from 2001 to 2004, then joined the counseling department at St. Rita and served as an assistant for the boys cross-country program there from 2005 to 2008.

“I have a lot of ideas,” Arey said. “Running is good for your soul, I think, and I hate that I lost that connection for a while. I remember how amazing it felt to run fast.

“We’ll work a lot on pace during a race. I learned to understand the feeling of pace when I was at Lewis. If you can’t run a 2:05 half-mile, then don’t go out so fast. The goal isn’t just to finish, it’s to race.”

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