Family ties Erie girls together

Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013 2:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, May 19, 2013 2:49 p.m. CDT

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Growing up in the Cobert or Rus households, the four daughters – two in each family – heard all the old war stories.

Sometimes, they tuned them out. Sometimes, they shook their heads and scoffed like any normal teenager does when their parents talk about the glory days. And sometimes, they actually found video evidence of those days.

But as they watched their four little girls holding the state runner-up trophy Saturday at the Class 1A girls state track meet, their necks adorned with the medals they so deservingly won that will be cherished by both generations forever, Jim Rus and Bob Cobert almost couldn't believe their eyes.

Nearly 3 decades after they themselves competed at the state meet, the lifelong residents of Erie experience a joy and pride they could scarcely imagine when they were just high school competitors in the early 1980s.

"Back in high school, you never assume what's going to happen in the future," said Cobert, doffing his cap and rubbing his buzz cut. "We've been fortunate enough to be friends for a long time, and even more fortunate to be parenting our girls together in sports for so long.

"Their talent is phenomenal, their love for what they do is amazing, and seeing how they lean on each other and rely on each other and cary on this family tradition … it really makes your chest puff up with pride and love."

Paige and Peyton Rus and Courtney and Rachel Cobert really take after their fathers in that regard. A close-knit quartet that's inseparable on the track and court – and nearly so off of them – is a reflection of the past they never experienced, but those in the generation before them can't forget.

When Bob Cobert qualified for the boys state track meet in 1981, he was the lone Erie guy to make the trek to Charleston.

But he was allowed to bring a teammate to provide some company and support, and he chose his fellow long jumper and triple jumper – freshman Jim Rus.

Bob went on to advance to state the next 2 years, but he never made the finals. Little did he realize at the time when he invited his friend to tag along that he was igniting a flame in Jim that would lead to glory.

Jim Rus won five state medals his final 3 years of high school. He was fifth in the triple jump as a sophomore and senior, fifth in the long jump as a senior, and third in both events as a junior in 1983.

And little did Jim know that one day, his daughters would surpass even his own wildest expectations for himself.

"I never envisioned anything like this at all," said Jim, celebrating the Panthers' runner-up finish with wife Erika and their only two children. "It's a blessing, and they deserve it. It's a great experience for them, and I know Bob and I appreciate this and are prouder of them than we ever were of ourselves or each other.

"This is just so, so special. To do what they did today on the biggest stage is more than any parent ever dreams for their children … the word 'pride' really doesn't even begin to cover what we're feeling right now."

Ask the girls, and they'll talk about how instrumental their fathers were in what they accomplished in Saturday's state finals.

Paige had 1-2-3-4 finishes in the triple jump, 1,600 relay, 800 relay and high jump. Peyton went 1-3-3-6 in the 400 relay, 800 relay, 200 and long jump. Rachel finished 1-2-3-6 in the 400 relay, 1,600 relay, 800 relay and triple jump. And Courtney was 1-2-3 in the 400 relay, 1,600 relay and 800 relay.

"Dad always used to talk about going when he used to run track with Jim," Rachel Cobert said, "and it's almost unreal that the four of us are keeping our family legacies going here today. It's an amazing experience to do what we did, and even more unbelievable to do it as sisters and friends."

It's not just following in their father's footsteps for Courtney and Rachel. Their older brother, Rob, qualified for state in three relays as a sophomore in 2010 and a junior in 2011, and went in two last year as a senior, including the third-place 400 relay.

Now that all three of their children have experienced success on the state's biggest stage, Bob and wife Mary, who was also a strong high-school athlete, can sit back and enjoy the rest of what the sports gods can throw their way.

Like maybe future grandchildren?

"It's crazy to think, but maybe we'll have eight kids or something in the next generation," Paige Rus said. "I can't imagine how good it would feel to come down here someday and watch our own kids hopefully have the same success."

All they have to do is ask their fathers.

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