Mother-son moment: Wolfes thriving in rare coaching situation
The image, captured by Polk County assistant track coach Amanda Simoncic, is priceless – Wolverine junior Jacob Wolfe, he and his relay teammates having just won an indoor track state championship, firmly wrapped in the arms of his mother, Polk County assistant coach Jenny Wolfe.
Ask Jenny Wolfe about that photo and she smiles and looks off in the distance, perhaps recalling the emotion of that moment, before saying a word.
Jacob Wolfe also remembers it.
“I was tired,” he said, maybe with a slightly mischievous smirk. “I needed someone to lean on. She seemed like the obvious choice.”
Parents coaching children is not uncommon in high school sports – Polk County Middle School girls soccer coach George Alley had his daughter, Reese, on this year’s squad, for example.
But having a mother coaching a son, even as an assistant coach, is a much rarer case. And finding such a situation where both mother and son won multiple state titles as athletes at the same school? Not common, for certain.
But that’s daily life right now for Jenny and Jacob Wolfe, the latter having just completed a junior season in which he was part of three state championship relay teams, two indoor and one outdoor, and also had the best individual finish of any Polk County male at the state 2A outdoor track championships, placing fifth in the 800-meter run and breaking the two-minute mark for the first time. Along with Sean Doyle, Wolfe leads a returning group of Wolverines that should be competitive at the state level again next season.
As a mother, Jenny Wolfe couldn’t be prouder. As a coach, she’s quick to give her athlete the credit.
“His success is all him,” Jenny Wolfe said. “It’s got nothing to do with me. He has exceeded every expectation I ever had for him.
“Jacob and I don’t ever think about it. When he’s here at school, he’s just an athlete, and I look at him like an athlete. He doesn’t single me out and neither do I. It’s not like it’s what mom says goes. It’s what Coach Wolfe says goes.”
Indeed, it’s not uncommon to hear Jenny Wolfe screaming “Wolfe” across the track during Polk County practices, workouts which also typically include Jacob’s grandfather and Jenny’s father, Jim McGrane. Both have been involved with Polk County track and field for years, dating back to Jenny Wolfe’s days as a Wolverine runner, and Jacob Wolfe has been a familiar face around the program since his mother returned to Polk County as a teacher and coach in 2003.
“It’s just how it has always been,” Jacob Wolfe said. “I probably wouldn’t run as hard if she wasn’t here and my grandpa wasn’t here. It always feel like someone is watching me. My grandpa is always talking to me about how fast he was.
“It’s definitely sweet to be a state champion after she was a state champion, too.”
Ask Jenny Wolfe how watching her son win state crowns compares to her own state titles, and the coach quickly gives way to the mom.
“It was more precious than the ones I got,” Jenny Wolfe said. “The whole state champion thing is more accentuated for me because I’m around track every day. It’s something that stays with you your whole life.
“He’s very humble, but to watch him be proud of himself. . . I noticed it in the indoor 1000 meters when he ran under 2:40 for the first time. He walked over to the side away from everyone and was celebrating. That was a gratifying moment.”
The common love of running allows mother and son to share those moments, but Jacob Wolfe said those times are usually left at the track.
“Sometimes at home we’ll sit down and talk about strategy and things to do, but it’s not our main focus,” he said. “It just comes up sometimes.”
“I want our time together to be very quality-oriented,” Jenny Wolfe said. “It’s always important to me to be with him as much as I can on a daily basis.”
Polk County will soon turn its focus to cross country, then indoor and outdoor track once again, and Jenny and Jacob Wolfe will be together for all three seasons, the mother and assistant coach hoping for a stellar senior season.
“This particular season, he has blossomed,” Jenny Wolfe said. “He’s gotten a little taste of wow, I could be good if I keep working hard. Maybe he’s learned how much this is important to him.”
Like mother, like son.