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Longtime Northwest suburban track coach dies in Nebraska
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Greg Fedyski


A group of MacArthur Middle School runners pose with coach Greg Fedyski, back row center, after a victory in 1998. The runners are wearing their "I'm a Fed Head" T-shirts, while Fedyski's read "I'm Fed."


Courtesy of Gada Qafisheh

Greg Fedyski with two of his runners from MacArthur Middle School, Gerry Hood, left, and Gada Qafisheh, pictured in 1999.


Courtesy of Gada Qafisheh

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Published: 7/23/2009 1:28 PM | Updated: 7/23/2009 6:53 PM

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Greg "Fed" Fedyski made a living getting kids to love running, and his most famous pupil ran all the way to the Olympics.

"Kids in middle school don't want to get up at 6 a.m. to go running, but we did for Fed," said Gada Qafisheh, a 2000 graduate from MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights. "He got us excited about running."

Fedyski, a coach and role model of Olympic runner Jorge Torres and a longtime track coach in the Northwest suburbs, died Thursday in a Nebraska hospital.

"He suffered a huge stroke that destroyed two-thirds of his brain and he just expired," said Fedyski's brother Jack. "His brain was basically destroyed by the stroke."

Jack Fedyski said his brother was surrounded by his family when he died.

Fedyski, 60, of Arlington Heights, was driving home from Colorado with Jorge Torres' mother, Maria, Sunday morning when the car veered off the roadway, struck a post and rolled twice, the Colorado State Patrol said. They had been in Colorado for Jorge Torres' wedding.

Doctors told Fedyski's family they aren't sure if Greg Fedyski suffered the stroke while he was driving or because of the injuries he sustained in the crash, said Gerald Fedyski, another of Greg's brothers. No other vehicles were involved, and police said neither alcohol, drugs nor speed were suspected.

"Indications are that he fell asleep, but we may never know why," said Colorado Sate Trooper Gilbert Mares.

Fedyski was airlifted to a hospital in nearby Nebraska along with Maria Torres. She was in good condition at the hospital Thursday, according to a hospital spokesman.

Jorge Torres and his twin brother, Edwardo, were standout runners at Wheeling High School who brought multiple state titles in cross country to the school. Fedyski coached the Torres brothers at MacArthur Middle School and at Fedyski's private Prospect Heights Running Club. The brothers credited Fedyski with getting them into the sport.

In the local running community, Fedyski was known as a tough coach who was fiercely protective of his runners. He would often attend Hersey and Wheeling High School cross country meets to watch his former MacArthur runners compete.

And there were no two runners he was more proud of than the Torres brothers, said Tom Polak, Wheeling High School's head cross country and track coach.

"The number of kids Fed got involved in cross country helped build our program, no doubt about it," Polak said. "He was able to find kids like Jorge and Edwardo and turn them into world-class athletes."

And he turned many others into serious collegiate runners.

After MacArthur, Qafisheh went on to run at Wheeling High and eventually got a scholarship to run at Loyola University.

"When I was at MacArthur, I wanted to play soccer and didn't take running seriously, but Fed told me I could be really good," Qafisheh said.

Kevin Havel started running at MacArthur and is a sophomore runner at Stanford University today. Like many of his former runners, Havel would run with Fedyski's club during the summers.

"Last year when I was struggling, I called Fed and he'd tell me to stick with it, (that) no one expected me to exceed expectations my freshman year," said Havel. "Just him saying that made me feel better."

Fedyski was a physical education teacher and coached cross country and track at MacArthur for many years until he retired five years ago. He grew up in the Chicago area, graduating from Wheeling High and Northwestern University, his family said.

"When he was little, Greg didn't like running, but he liked being a coach when he got older," Gerald Fedyski said. "He got more and more into it. My brother was just a great person. He had a great work ethic. Even the little kids he coached could see that."

Funeral services are pending but will probably occur late next week.