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.
- Madison West - Tom Kaufman
- Verona Area - Randy Marks
- 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?