On Sunday, November 6, Joe Newton, one of our most important high school coaches and role models was honored by the past, present and future of sport at York High School. Joe Newton groomed and developed a high school program, over the past six decades, at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. Coach Newton is one of our most respected coaches and role models. His kindness, powers of observation, dedication and genuine love of his athletes and staff are well known.
RunBlogRun was fortunate enough to have Jeff Benjamin, a long time writer for RunBlogRun (before that, American Athletics and American Track & Field), visit with Joe Newton and write about the amazing celebration of Joe Newton’s career and the reach of the long Green Line of York cross country.
The past, present and the future gathered in the thousands today at York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois to pay homage to the 1 person whose presence, influence and love, bridged all of their generations together for almost 60 years.
The “Long Green Line” Cross Country Icon Joe Newton, who retired from Coaching this past summer at the age of 87 was given a big ceremony of appreciation, which was held at the school’s field house which bears his name. In a career begun in the late 1950’s, Newton had amazing success as his York Dukes won 28 State titles. Newton, who served as America’s first ever High School Coach for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, was also honored 4 times as the National XC Coach of the Year.
Cross Country was the recurring theme in this room which contained York Duke XC Alums dating as far back as 1960. Even America’s greatest Cross Country runner Craig Virgin, who competed against Newton’s team at Lebanon high school and still holds the Illinois High School State Record over the 3-mile Detweiller Park course (13:50), made the trip up from St. Louis. ” I had to see Joe,” said Virgin, who went on to even greater heights as as a 3-time Olympian, 2:10:26 Boston Marathoner, and 2-Time World XC Champion. “He always showed me respect and was encouraging to me.”
Those same feelings said by Virgin echoed throughout the ceremony. Opening the ceremony with a check-in, (something Newton had done on a daily basis for all these years), current XC Coach Charlie Kern gave acknowledgment to all the alums, staff, family and friends present.
Newton was given many honors and citations by various people on this day. Yet the most prestigious honor had to have come from York Alumni Director Kathy Wilson, who honored Newton with the first induction ever into the York Alumni Hall of Fame. These presentations were followed by others, including 1960 Alum Lee Daniels (who implored all present to “Remember this moment!!”), 1967 Alum and former York AD Al Janulis, fellow HS Coaching legend John Hemmer, and son Tom Newton, who also announced the creation of the Joe Newton Scholarship Fund, and told his father, “Your life is your greatest legacy.”
After the speakers and presenters were finished Newton was appropriately given the last word. “I’m forever grateful,” he began. “I loved my job…every morning I could hardly wait to get to York and yell at some guy!”
Newton then yelled out his legendary quote, “How Sweet It Is!!”
As far as legacy, Newton praised Coach Kern, and guaranteed to the audience that, “The Long Green Line will go on!!”
FINAL LAP- Amongst the thousands of guests were some of York’s legendary runners. While Jim White, who’s based in Chicago, had a short commute, Donald Sage came from Eugene, Oregon to attend. They were both trumped, however, by 3-time World Championship and 2-time Olympic runner Norwegian Marius Bakken. Bakken, who nowadays is a doctor in his native country, ran for Newton in the mid-1990’s, and echoed others who also said that they had to come for Newton…..Although not attending, IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe, who had stayed with Newton in the 1980’s, particularly in his lead up to the 1984 LA Olympics (Where he won Silver in the 800 and Gold in the 1500) sent Newton a video of appreciation and thanks….Newton spoke with this writer about how important it was for him to be supportive and positive with all of his athletes, regardless of ability, a theme echoed by some of his presenters who said time and again, “It’s nice to be great, but far greater to be nice!”