Remembering Jack Schommer
Head Cross Country Coach – Brother Martin High School
In New Orleans City Park this Saturday October 24, Brother Martin High School hosts the Jack Schommer Invitational, named in honor of the school’s first Cross Country coach. This year’s meet features many of the top teams in Louisiana.
Coach Schommer was influential in the process of sanctioning cross country as an LHSAA sport in Louisiana. As the Head Track & Field Coach and assistant Football coach at St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin) in the early 1960s, Schommer was faced with the dilemma of grooming his long distance runners for the upcoming Track & Field season without the advantage of a preparatory Cross Country season. With Cross Country a few years away from becoming a sanctioned sport within the LHSAA, Schommer routinely shipped his distance runners to Mobile, AL. to run road races in the fall in an effort to ready his team for the cinders in the spring.
In 1966, Schommer organized the first cross country meet in Louisiana as he fired the starting gun for the inaugural New Orleans City Championship Meet – known now as the New Orleans Metro Championships. After the merger of Cor Jesu High School and St. Aloysius in 1969 into Brother Martin, Schommer successfully petitioned the State to sanction Cross Country as an official sport in Louisiana. Then in 1970, Louisiana held the first Cross Country State Championship.
After he retired from coaching in the early 1990s, Schommer was recognized by the Louisiana Track & Field Coaches Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in advancing the sports of Cross Country and Track & Field across the state of Louisiana. While Coach Schommer’s teams won multiple District, City, and State Championships, the true measure of his success can be felt at starting lines and finish chutes each Saturday morning across Louisiana in venues like City Park, Highland Road, Acadiana Park, and Northwestern State University. Many coaches in the area today – including Catholic High’s Pete Boudreaux, Mandeville’s Gerald Singer, former Brother Martin coach Dennis Panepinto and former Holy Cross coach Al Seither, to name a few – can attest to the positive influence of Coach Schommer’s tireless efforts. Although Coach Schommer passed away in 2001, his impact on our sport can be felt each time a high school runner in Louisiana laces the spikes and toes the starting line.
After completing the pre-race routine of waking before the sun, groggily boarding the team bus with water bottle in hand and tote bag slung over shoulder, and crouching at the starting line of this week’s twisting and turning (and probably soggy) course, remember a man who helped pave the way for the challenging opportunity that lies ahead.