There were, without question, opportunities to run cross country or track and field in college for Nathan Cummings.
He had been a stalwart on his West Carrollton High School squads in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, but Nathan Cummings already had discovered a passion for a different path in life.
“I ran throughout middle and high school and it was a lot of fun; I fell in love with the sport,” Cummings said. “It would have been nice to run in college, but once I knew I wouldn’t make it to anything big, I knew what I wanted to do in life. It would have been fun, but school was really important to me and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.”
Cummings has become a critical member of the Brentwood Middle School staff, both as an educator and as a coach; he’s also been named the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Distinguished Service Award recipient for October.
A 12-year veteran at Brentwood Middle after his graduation from Vanderbilt University, Cummings has led the Brentwood Middle School girls’ cross country team to consecutive Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association state championships as well as a 2021 title and 2022 runner-up finish for the school’s boys’ teams.
“It was our first year in TMSAA, so I think not that it came as a surprise, because I knew we had a really good cross country team and I knew because of how we did in some invitationals, I had in my mind maybe if we did compete in TMSAA we could do well,” Cummings said. “We just have really hard workers and in Brentwood, running is really important to our community and always has been.
“I’m extremely thankful that for 12 years Brentwood has allowed me to be part of that community. And I get to see all the runners that I’ve coached grow up and I think about those runners and how they’re doing. I get to see them succeed in high school and some of them go succeed in college. I think about that and it kind of blows my mind.”
Brentwood Middle’s cross country coach the past dozen years, as well as track and field for now almost nine years and even with experience as a swimming coach as well, Cummings has worked to approach his life in education as those who impacted him in his own formative years.
“I just think in my school district where I was at, there were just really good teachers,” Cummings, who has transitioned into teaching eighth-grade U.S. History after five years teaching on the seventh-grade level, said. “They just truly cared about us and made learning fun, and oddly enough, I really enjoyed it.
“Something I really wanted to do from that was to take a lesson and put it in a way that kids could understand. If I was to tell my college self that I would be teaching middle school, I’d probably yell at myself. But it’s something that I really enjoy.”
And while Cummings has enjoyed his program’s successes, he has recognized the greatest accomplishment comes from the unity of his teams.
“What’s big for me has been the camaraderie of the teams,” he said. “Again, I’m fortunate that Brentwood and our school leaders have given me these opportunities to be a part of such a special place.”