York gives Newton a champion's retirement send-off

Updated 11/10/2016 12:40 PM

A long, green line, for sure.

Hundreds came out to York High School on Nov. 6 to salute Joe Newton, the spunky legend who had coached Dukes cross country and track for 61 of his 87 years before officially retiring after Saturday's state cross country championships.


Starting in 2000 -- the year of Newton's only state track title to go with 28 in cross country -- a hernia and bum hips hastened Dukes coaching transitions first in track to Stan Reddel and this season to Charlie Kern in cross country, now track coach as well. For years Newton has lived nearly year-round in Arizona with his wife of 64 years, Joan.

"I loved my job," the former gym teacher said after speeches by guests including former Illinois speaker of the House Lee Daniels, Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley, Illinois High School Association executive director Craig Anderson, son Tom Newton and others.

"That's why it's embarrassing to me now," said the first high school coach to be on the staff of a United States Men's Olympic Track Team, in 1988. "All those older guys never saw me sit down at practice, and now all I do is sit down because I can't walk."

Even in a wheelchair Newton's enthusiasm captivated the masses as he was guided to and from the field house that bears his name then, after the program, to a reception in the school lobby.

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A member of 13 halls of fame, Newton clasped hands with awe-struck attendees spanning all ages, including graduated state champions such as Sean McNamara, Donald Sage and, in from Norway, Marius Bakken.

"I just remember running meets and feeling dead and feeling like I can't give anything else," said Sage, a superstar from the Class of 2000. "And then hearing his voice yelling from across the field where there's thousands of fans cheering but for some reason Mr. Newton's voice would just stand out -- like 'Donald! Donald!' -- and then I'd hear that and I'd just dig a little bit deeper."

Newton's philosophy of coaching his Dukes was simple: "If they know you love them, they'll do anything for you," he said.

Near the end of a touching and humorous address, York graduate and former athletic director Al Janulis said: "Coach taught us values, loyalty, he taught us respect and that we always and forever will be family."

York athletic director Rob Wagner announced the creation of a York Lifetime Appreciation Award and made Newton the first recipient. York Alumni Association President Kathy Wilson made him the first honorary member. Tom Newton announced the Joe Newton Scholarship Award of Excellence, to be presented annually to a boys cross country or track athlete through the DuPage Foundation.


Morley read Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's proclamation of Nov. 6 as Coach Joe Newton Day in Illinois. Morley then read his own proclamation stating the same for Joe Newton Day in Elmhurst.

"I do not believe we should view this as the end of an era," said York Superintendent David Moyer, "because memories live forever."

Newton, who reminisced with and shook the hand of dozens of former athletes from the 1950s through 2010s, soaked it in.

"I am so thrilled with your kind words," he said. "I'm just overwhelmed, and I better shut up before I start crying."

They are the champions

Nov. 5 was a red-letter day for the Iversons of Naperville.

Coach Dan Iverson's Naperville North girls cross country team won its seventh state championship and second in three seasons in Class 3A. A few hours later his son, Colin, helped the Huskies claim their second boys soccer title in history, also Class 3A.

A Friday semifinal loss would have scuttled a lot of joy.

"Immediately after we won our supersectional game he said we had to win on Friday so he could see our championship game," said Colin, a sophomore defender.

Dan Iverson said it was difficult to remain focused in Peoria, but Sarah Schmitt, Hannah Ricci, Alex Morris, Claire Hamilton and Gabby Champion finished among the top 51 runners to claim Naperville North's first title.

"I thought it was great," Colin said. "I grew up going to all the meets and stuff, and I loved the atmosphere there (at Detweiller Park). I just know every time they go out there they're all going to give their best."

Indeed, but then came Dan's task of traveling 160 miles to the 7:30 p.m. soccer match at Hoffman Estates High School.

After the cross country awards ceremony and a few quick interviews at around 4 p.m., the coach jumped in the car with his parents, Rick and Monica, and high-tailed it up Interstate 55. Inevitable construction snags had the party still in the Hoffman Estates parking lot when Bradley-Bourbonnais scored the game's first goal at the 25-minute mark of the first half.

Naperville North's Chris Sullivan and Jack Bromagen scored in the second half to make the Iversons 2-for-2 on the day.

"A state championship is probably something most people never experience. That's not lost on me," said Dan Iverson, whose wife, Laura, coached Naperville North to a boys volleyball title in 1997.

"To be able to experience it two different ways in the same day, and watch Colin perform at such a high level was a pretty special thing. It was an emotionally draining experience," he said.

"It was just an incredible feeling," Colin Iverson said. "I was so proud of my dad and I know he was proud of me. I was just so glad to be a part of it."

Ain't afraid of no goat

From San Francisco to Los Angeles to Cleveland to Wrigley Field, West Chicago boys basketball coach Bill Recchia attended 15 of 17 games on the road to the Cubs' first World Series title since 1908.

"To witness history like that is something," said Recchia, his travels encouraged by his wife, Gina.

As with anything Cubs, there were adventures.

Flying to the West Coast the plane required an emergency landing in Salt Lake City due to falling cabin pressure. Recchia called it horrifying.

"The stewardess said, 'Prepare for landing" and she was crying," he said.

Recchia was able to fly in his son, Ryne -- named after Sandberg -- from Minnesota to watch two games at Wrigley Field. He took his daughter, Kayla, to the Championship Series clincher against the Dodgers, where they sat near the former Cub Ryne Sandberg.

World Series Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley Field were too exorbitantly priced, but when the Cubs fell behind in Game 4 Recchia thought, "Now's the time to get a ticket for Game 5."

The rest was history. Recchia witnessed it at Cleveland's Progressive Field for Games 6 and 7.

"It was literally like Wrigley Field East. So many Cub fans were there, I couldn't believe the amount of Cub fans. Talk about a swing of emotions," he said.

"If you're born into a Cub family you're a Cub fan for life, and to be able to experience that firsthand is something I'll be able to take with me forever."


Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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