Ben Dehnke, 35, is in his eighth year as the boys cross country and language arts teacher at Brookwood.
Dehnke is a 1995 grad from Lutheran High School South (Mo.) and has his bachelor's degree in secondary education English from the University of Missouri. He has a masters degree from Walden University and is working on his specialists' degree.
Dehnke and his wife Stacy, a counselor at Brookwood, have three sons -- Carter, 6, Grant, 4, and Isaac, 2.
In this latest installment of "Getting To Know ... ," staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Dehnke about the success of the Brookwood cross country program, his sister Elizabeth marrying girls coach Chris Carter, and finally getting a cellphone.
BB: You guys are the three-time defending state champions. Any pressure to win another title this year?
BD: I think they do kind of feel that inwardly. They want to honor the tradition that came before them. But at the same time, we lost so much to graduation. I think statewide people maybe thought this team wouldn't be as good this year. Because of that, I don't know if they felt a lot of pressure going in. They've been pretty good at hiding it, anyway, if they have. I know they are excited about racing and that kind of stuff. It doesn't seem to have shaken them up too much.
BB: You have three state titles in cross county and two as an assistant in track. Where do you keep all these state championship rings?
BD: (laughs) Well, we've been fortunate to have some success. The guys certainly like that. (I keep them) in their cases, I guess. I like last year's ring the most, so that's the one I probably wear the most.
BB: Do you ever put all of them on one hand?
BD: I have not done that. It's a good memento of the groups of kids we've had.
BB: Brookwood has a rich tradition in cross country and track. When you took over, did you feel the pressure to succeed?
BD: Yeah. I did. My first couple of years we struggled at times. It took me a while to figure out how to get back that way. Jerry Arnold had just won three in a row. I think they had won eight when I came in. It seemed like each year that I was here and we didn't win -- it's not necessarily pressure I felt to win, but I wanted for those kids in our program to have that same experience that the other kids have. It seems like we've gotten things right as far as having a program set up to facilitate that. We just had really good talent, which is good.
BB: Do you want to share your secret to success with everybody?
BD: (laughs) Not really. I'll kind of keep some of that inside. Hard work, that's about it. They just work really hard. No blood doping or anything like that. (laughs).
BB: If we did a coaches' county cross country meet, who would win?
BD: Probably Chris Meyer at Mountain View would be up there. Chris Carter, our girls coach would be up there. I would be near the back I'm sure. (Mill Creek's) Andy Christie would do well.
BB: Your sister is married to Brookwood girls coach Chris Carter. How did that all come about?
BD: They met at our wedding and the rest is history. And now our kids are double cousins. Interestingly, Chris' kids are both boys also, so we have five boys in that generation, so it's pretty fun. They all get along. Family gatherings are always fun. Our wives do have to tell us to cool it on the cross country/track talk.
BB: Were you and Chris already friends before they met?
BD: No. He was living in Cincinnati at the time. I had met him before we got married, but we didn't really know each other until our wedding I guess. I guess a year or two after he and Elizabeth, my sister, got married they moved down here and he got this job and it's gone from there.
BB: Is it kind of weird having him married to your sister?
BD: Uh, no. It's comfortable. Honestly, we work side by side instead of one over the other, so there's no friction there or anything like that. We run in the mornings together, so it works well.
BB: Do you see your wife a lot at school?BD: No, I'm on F Hall. I teach ninth-graders. She's up in the counseling office. I have to go out of my way usually to see her. But it's nice.
BB: Does she have the upper hand on you in the family, being a doctor?
BD: Yes, definitely, and I'm fine with her having that. I don't think I could have a doctorate.
BB: But you are working on your specialists degree with Andy Christie and Chris Carter, right?
BD: We have all those long drives to class together once a month, which is fine. But I'm not going to go the doctorate route. I don't think I can write that much.
BB: Whose test do you copy off of -- Christie's or Carter's?
BD: (laughs) Carter's. He's the A student in the group, I think.
BB: You have to be one of the last adults in modern civilization to get a cellphone. How do you like it?
BD: I know. I had a prepaid with a thousand minutes that lasted me a year. Now finally I have a month-to-month pre-paid. I guess you get 1,500 minutes or texts a month. I rarely get to 1,000. I'm usually in the 500 range. I guess I don't know enough people. I like not being on call all the time.
BB: What made you pull the trigger and get a cellphone?
BD: Well, cutting costs at home. We got rid of our home phone and saved some money that way. It's kind of with the times with this one. I can text with it. Whereas with my old one, I couldn't do that very well.
BB: Are you big into texting, Tweeting or Facebooking?
BD: (laughs) I don't Tweet. I have a Facebook, but I don't use it. I can text OK, but I'm not much a phone talker anyway.
BB: What did you think of Missouri's welcoming to the SEC?
BD: It's been great. I like the fact that they are in the SEC because I'll get to watch them more. The fourth quarter of the Georgia game was kind of a rude awakening. We're going to take some lumps in the first couple of years, I think. We'll be competitive, hopefully, maybe. It could be a long season.
BB: Is it hard to imagine Missouri in the SEC since it's not geographically in the Southeast?
BD: Kind of. It does border Arkansas. I think a lot of Southerners think it's further north than it is. The climate is very similar to what we have here in Georgia. It gets a little colder there in the winter, but the summers are hot. The cultural fit is a little different. There's other conferences that would be better, but it's better for the university to be in the SEC than it was to be in the broken Big 12 in my opinion. I'm excited about them being here because I'll get to see them more. When they come to Georgia next year, I'll try to get tickets if we don't have a cross country meet that week.
BB: Well, you do the scheduling, so you can make that happen.
BD: That's true. I could make that happen. We'll have to see.
BB: You've been at Brookwood for eight years. How long do you see yourself here?
BD: Our kids go to Craig Elementary. We love it there. We love the Brookwood schools, so we don't have any plans to move. I think we'll be here a while. Coaching is still a lot of fun.