Wisconsin's Joe Newton


A lot of people are going to jump and suggest Donn Behnke as a comparable coach to Joe Newton. While he may have many accolades, state appearances and even an ISBN (book) I just dont think he fits the mold by way of virtue and as an integral component of transcendent growth beyond the city of Stevens Point like Joe Newton of Elmhurst York. SPASH doesnt have to bring it to sectionals every year and does nothing to strengthen the schools around them. And sadly, by way of action and demeanor, Mike Mulrooney of Arrowhead, who has a decent program equally dismisses himself from such a title and comparison. The Arrowhead program is not cultivated with honor, routinely has roster positions on the varsity level from outside the district and disregards WIAA rulings or interprets them loosely to fit their agenda (i.e. like Wisconsin Lutheran).

I dont think this honorable comparison needs to be limited by longevity nor by accolades but by default there will have to be an intermix of both. When I contemplated this during a morning run through the snow I arrived at three current coaches in no particular order.

  1. Madison West - Tom Kaufman
  2. Verona Area - Randy Marks
  3. Shorewood - Dominic Newman

Coach Kaufman has been a huge proponent of distance running on the Madison local scene since a time I have only read about. He provides leadership to runners of all ages. He, of course, revived a storied program, Madison West, and took it to an entirely new level. He plays an integral role not only in the transformation of the Big Eight but the state itself. He has taken an underfunded high school program and combined it with elite parents from the sidelines to build pillar after pillar for the next wave in the program to construct and launch from. This is the scaffold of a West framework that will live on for years to come.

As an extension of the spirit of Madison West, a byproduct of the program itself during its previous reign, Verona Area coach, Randy Marks, has not only etched state titles in all three divisions with a single school but embodied the Verona idea from nearly its inception and through its entire growth as a city. When the state of Wisconsin was in a mode of idleness post-Jennings (who was a stand-alone superstar) Coach Marks catapulted an orange Verona fireball into the national rankings with his 1999 4x800 meter squad which ran 7:47 back when hardly anyone nationwide was doing it. This state record was a culmination of many great squads and example of what can happen when the stars all align on the same day. Anyone who was there that day will know what that did for Wisconsin; it started the revival of Wisconsin distance running as a whole and is part of where we’re at today. The mark of Marks stood there for every team of similar ability to rally around and take aim at during said era until eclipsed nearly a decade later.

Dominic Newman is a coach whom I consider as having a storied longevity beyond his years. There is something about the way he shapes not only competitiveness but also moderation and leisure in his athletes that stands out to me. He is also a very integral part – if not the humble centerpiece – of the Milwaukee area distance community. The long checkered red and white line in the D2 rankings depicts the most factual evidence of his placement among the Wisconsin greats. And he has done so in unifying teams who come from a location with some of the most disparities, both racial and income, in the United States.

Each one of these gentlemen mobilizes the thought, word and deed of high cross country and physical education beyond the race course itself much like Joe Newton did. Moreover, talk to the alumni and they wont be able to come up with the exact words on the spot to express their experiences through these coaches.

What do you think?


Why not?


With a lack of true competition at the Wausau-Stevens Point area sectional we don’t really witness a demonstration of courage (or prudence) to make it to state. It is more so geographic luck that the SPASH boys have tallied as many appearances as they have.

Please do not interpret that as a knock on the program. It is an elite program in Wisconsin. But just take a look at the Illinois Sectional York comes from. Those boys really have to be primed to win state to get out and York set the bar for that. That’s what this assessment is more about.

  • West pushes and as a result La Follette and Middleton do too.
  • Verona pushed and as a result WFB, Monroe, etc came about.
  • Shorewood pushed and along with it came Port Washington and a sneaky Wisconsin Lutheran agenda too.

Stevens Point pushes and Wausau West, Wausau East and D.C. Everest basically stay the same minus one or two examples on the boys side.


SPASH doesn’t just appear at the state meet, they do well there. 39 appearances, 2 misses, yes, that’s an easy sectional. But In those 39 appearances, they have brought home 18 trophies and have an average finish of 4.05. That isn’t just an “oh, they had a cake walk into the meet.” I’m not doubting your other nominations, they may have a wider impact than Donn has. But if you doubt the courage and prudence in their runners and the guy that inspires them, that’s your oversight.


No one is doubting that. In fact, the bare minimum of a coach is to inspire athletes to compete to their best. If a coach doesnt do that then I hope they are to be replaced soon. This is a tribute to Joe Newton who did things beyond that call of duty or appointment.

There is a video in the national HS Elite forum that captures Newton’s thinking about achieving “human excellence” and the characterization process (the veritas) beyond the sport itself. That is what makes this assessment more than simply tallies.


Joe Newton was a coaches coach. His ideas are incorporated or for another word copied by almost all of us. This is where I think Joe took his passion for the sport to a level that most of us can only dream about. Don Behnke is a great HOF coach and has a great passion for the sport and his charges no questions about that. I think what you are getting at Zen is that Don is not a joiner and has self admitted this before. He has never to my knowledge been a clinician at any of our clinics and I can hardly believe that he has not been asked numerous times. In fact I don’t believe I have ever seen him at any of the WCCCA clinics or going out of his way to share his immense knowledge on distance running. His book is a great read and shows much of his personality and belief in his runners and himself. None of us are Joe Newton he is one of a kind for sure. I was fortunate enough to hear Joe at our clinic a couple times and at other clinics he ran with Joe Vigil in Chicago. Joe was a coach who wanted to pass his knowledge and passion along to other coaches and that just isn’t Don’s personality. His book is his way of trying to do that.


Here’s few other names that deserves some attention. I will not be long winded do to lack of time but these coaches deserve to be talked about. The unique thing is that they have had success coaching both genders.

Mike Miller of Whitefish Bay and Dominican
Mary Patterson of Park Fall HS and Chequamegon HS
Arnie Miehi of Darlington