Belvidere puts on memorial run to remember Coach Salley

Published: Nov. 28, 2020 at 6:55 PM CST
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BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) - The community continues to mourn the passing of Belvidere boys cross country coach Robert Salley. On Saturday, the Bucs came together to honor him the only way they know how, by going for a run.

“Everybody knew Mr. Salley, knew my dad,” explained Emma Salley. “But I guess we didn’t realize how many people he actually touched and how many people’s lives he left an impact on.”

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for Emma and the entire Salley family. On Saturday, they leaned on their friends for a bit of normalcy.

”It’s really weird without him,” said Emma. “But I know he’s looking over us, I know he’ll be alongside me yelling at me like he always did.”

Belvidere put on a memorial run for Salley. He died last week after hitting his head in a fall. His daughter, a Belvidere 2019 grad, took part in the alumni portion of the run.

“My dad was my best friend. He was my teacher in third grade,” said Emma. “He was my coach for everything growing up. He meant everything to me.”

The Bucs boys and girls cross country team, as well as nearly a dozen alumnus came out to be there for the Salleys.

“Clearly they haven’t forgotten him or the impact and coach he was. It’s really nice just to see everybody coming back and see my old teammates and just all the support from everybody.”

One of his old runners was Dane Jankiewicz, a classmate of Emma’s. He had just finished running six miles for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, but wanted to be in Belvidere for Salley.

”I had some family issues in the past,” explained Jankiewicz. “He was definitely like a father figure to me. Definitely helped me through high school, a lot. In more ways than he probably knows.”

Jankiewicz said Salley will always be around, through the life lessons he taught his students and athletes.

“We want our athletes to have great PRs, we want them to have great times,” said John Deery, Belvidere girls cross country head coach. “We want them to have the high school experience, but we want them to be good people in the long run.”

Deery was excited to see so many familiar faces show up in support.

“To see some of the young men and women, who came back today to honor Coach Salley, I think it says a lot about Coach Salley’s legacy that this many people would come out with such short notice to honor him.”

The walk-through visitation for Salley will be held from 2-6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Belvidere High School. COVID-19 guidelines will be enforced with only ten guests in the building at a time.

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