By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Ken Loomis was a good athlete at Paul IV High School in Haddonfield.
He was a standout in football and baseball, and later played college football.
A couple of weeks ago, however, the current Wildwood High School football coach became the second-best athlete in his new two-person family.
Loomis married Priscilla Frederick, a former classmate at Paul VI who just so happens to be one of the best high jumpers in the world, at a small ceremony in Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland.
The wedding was held Aug. 15, one day after Frederick won gold in the high jump at the 69th annual Cork City Sports athletics championships, an invitational track and field meet involving distinguished athletes from around the world.
“One day I’m out there competing in a sports bra and the next day I’m wearing a white wedding dress,” Priscilla said with a laugh while watching her husband’s Warrior team practice Wednesday afternoon.
The couple were not high school sweethearts.
“I was in honors classes and I played football and baseball and she did track and was involved in dance and the play,” Ken explained. “We knew of each other, but our paths really didn’t cross much.”
They went their separate ways to college. Ken played football at Division III King’s, while Priscilla competed in indoor and outdoor track at Division I St. John’s, starring in the high jump, pentathlon and heptathlon.
Priscilla became so accomplished as an athlete that she competed in the high jump at the 2016 Olympics for Antigua and Barbuda, qualifying to represent the Caribbean nation through her father, a native of the country. She has dual citizenship.
Priscilla also was a silver medalist in the high jump at the 2015 and 2019 Pan-Am Games. Her best high jump is 6 feet, 3 ¼ inches, a record in Antigua and Barbuda.
She also hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo next summer. She’s scheduled for induction into the Paul VI High School Hall of Fame this fall.
Ken and Priscilla finally did cross paths well after high school after both had returned to Paul VI as coaches — Ken in baseball and Priscilla in track.
“A bunch of us who coached, once in a while we would hang out after practice on a Friday and maybe go get a drink somewhere,” Ken recalled. “That’s when we started getting more friendly but we were still more just friends. Then after I came down here to Wildwood, she called me up one night and said, ‘I need a night out in Wildwood,’ so she came down and we hit it off from there.”
The couple got engaged earlier this year. When Priscilla was invited to compete in Ireland, both immediately thought of holding their nuptials on the Emerald Isle.
“We thought, Why have this big ceremony with 300 people and have to pay for some uncle I haven’t seen in years?” Ken said with a laugh. “I’d never been to Ireland, but my uncle Tom (Loomis), is involved with a string band (Woodland String Band) and they go on trips to Ireland all the time. So we thought, Why not get married over there?”
Priscilla competed in the high jump at 6:45 p.m. on the day of the meet, with Ken watching close by.
“It meant a lot having him there,” Priscilla said. “He’s only seen me compete at a handful of meets. To have him there really meant a lot.”
Priscilla said she had no problem focusing on the task at hand at the meet, even though she would be married less than 24 hours later.
“I’ve been competing since I was 6 years old so it’s what I’m used to,” she explained. “I was able to focus on that and carry it into the meet and do my best and fortunately I got gold. I was ready and prepared for that. But to be a bride? That’s obviously not something I’ve ever done. But I was able to marry my best friend and get super girly for a day. It was so great.”
Ken couldn’t have been happier as well.
“There’s that expression out there — find a girl who can do both, and she can definitely do that,” he said with a smile. “She can go in the weight room and kill it in there and go out and be great in the high jump, and the next day look absolutely gorgeous in a white wedding gown.”
The wedding was held at the Castle Hotel in Macroom, a suburb of Cork. The only other people in attendance were Ken’s parents and his aunt and uncle, along with two close friends of Priscilla’s.
The unique circumstances surrounding the wedding drew major attention in Ireland. Echolive.com wrote a series of stories surrounding the events and RTE (Raidio Teilifis Eirann — Radio Television Ireland in English) also did a piece on the couple.
“We were surprised at how much the story blew up over there,” Priscilla said.
The couple, both 30, lives in Wildwood. Priscilla commutes each day from there to the Haddonfield area, where she owns a successful cleaning business. She recently resigned as the head boys and girls winter and spring track coach.
Ken, meanwhile, as a football coach and schoolteacher at Wildwood, doesn’t have to leave town.
It’s an arrangement Priscilla enjoys.
“Being here calms me down. Crossing the bridge, I feel relaxed, I feel happy and I feel comfortable,” she said. “And we have a great little community in our little neighborhood.”
Married just two weeks, their journey as a couple has just gotten started and could take them in many directions. No matter where life leads them, they’ll always have the memory of their remarkable Irish experience.
“It was amazing for us over there,” Ken said. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”