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Chestatee community coach Wes Wessley pours endless energy into maintaining state championship cross country program
Wes Wessley
Chestatee community coach Wes Wessley has worked with its cross country program for 17 seasons. Photo courtesy Brittiny Peters

Wes Wessley’s mission in retirement has impacted countless lives. 

A proud veteran of the US Army, who had a long and successful 37-year career with Delta Airlines, one of his main investments for the past 17 years has been molding athletes through the cross country and distance runners in the track program at Chestatee High. 

A certified community coach who doesn’t get paid for his endless hours invested in building the program a thriving cross country program, Wessley is considered the glue to claiming its second straight Class 4A state title in 2021. 

“It means a lot to me to mold these young people who’ve come into the program,” said Wessley, 73, who immigrated to the United States from Austria at age 13. 

Wessley has a hand in every aspect of guiding runners and helping them maximize their position. 

He maintains trails. Brings tents for meets. Gives advice on proper nutrition and calorie consumption for optimal-distance running. 

And if anyone needs to bend his ear, Wessley makes sure all the boys on the team have his number to call for advice, whether it be about running or life. 

“Coach Wes is a huge reason we were able to win state titles back to back,” senior Chestatee’s Garrett Grater said, who was second in state in 2021. 

The War Eagles’ most dedicated community coach could be best described as firm but fair. 

Wessley has expectations for athletes before they earn his trust. 

However, when he finds out that both sides are pulling in the same direction, it becomes a balanced mentorship. 

“I’ve grown to be a partner in this experiment,” said Wessley, who has worked at Chestatee for 17 years. “But coaches still to be the benevolent dictator.”

Even during the offseason, Wessley is planning training runs and encouraging his athletes through their individual endeavors. 

And in the summer, Wessley is a stickler for his runners sticking to their training schedules. 

However, many will vouch for the fact that Wessley is a caring figure who is trying to impart his life knowledge on high school athletes. 

“I’m amazed and touched at how much he cares for all these kids,” said Brittiny Peters, whose son, Noah, is a sophomore who finished 17th at state this season. “Coach Wes is just as much a mentor as he is a coach.”

Those who run for the War Eagles say that Wessley can be stern and straightforward, but highlight his heart of gold. 

In 2020 and 2021, Chestatee’s cross country program had a different runner each season runner who had a parent die. 

The first person at the funeral home to console those boys was Wessley, Peters said. 

On Oct. 6, War Eagles freshman runner Nate Ibarra lost his mother to the coronavirus. 

The same man he considers a ‘grandfather figure’ was right there to offer his support in his greatest time of need.

“When he showed up (at the funeral home) it was just a sign of how much he cared about us,” said Ibarra, whose older brother, Emmanual, also ran at Chestatee. “Coach Wes is always there to check up on us and make sure we’re good and offer his help.”

Wessley, on his own accord, has also taken on the responsibility of giving back financially to help athletes who are in need. 

Building successful running programs is nothing new for Wessley. 

With Delta Airlines, he coordinated a program with runners all over the country that swelled at as many as 500 members, he said. 

Wessley also was a decorated runner, competing in dozens of marathons, winning the Atlanta Marathon in 1980 and 1988. 

Only did he get involved at Chestatee High after he retired from Delta and his wife took a job as a court reporter in Hall County. 

Waiting in the pickup line after school to get his then middle school-aged daughter, Wessley heard through the grapevine that Chestatee was in need of someone with the time and passion to work with distance runners. 

Wessley checked both of those boxes. 

Now, it’s a relationship, at Chestatee, that spans almost two decades with no clear end in sight. 

“I’m so happy you’re doing a story about him,” Grater said. “He flys low under the radar but is a great man.”

“He deserves the recognition,” Ibarra said. “Nobody can replace him.”

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