Unless you’ve been out of town or under a rock this past week, you’ve probably heard that this will be Joe Newton's last season as coach of the York high school cross country team.

He will officially be co-head coach for his 61st season at York (his 63rd season of coaching high school athletes) and Charlie Kern will take over as interim head coach before taking the reins of the program after the season.

Newton’s accomplishments are legendary—28 state titles (the most of any Illinois High School in any sport), 12 runner-up finishes, four third-place finishes, for a total of 44 state trophies won under Newton. His teams have won more than 300 conference championships in track and cross country, including an amazing streak of 23 cross country titles in a row (1978-2000.) His cross country and track teams have won more than 2,050 dual meets.

But you might not know some other amazing facts about him:

  • He grew up on Chicago’s South Side and attended Parker High School where he won 12 varsity letters and was named a High School All-American.
  • He has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Northwestern University.
  • He served two years in the U.S. Army and was the head track coach at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. While there, he coached three Olympic runners.
  • In 1988 he was named assistant manager of the U.S. men’s Olympic track staff in Seoul, South Korea. He was the first high school coach to be made part of the team. His job included running with the marathoners while being escorted by police with machine guns.
  • He once made a goal to run every day. The streak lasted for 21 years and 24 days until a stress fracture in his knee forced him to take a break.
  • He has been inducted into 13 Hall of Fames, including the National High School Hall of Fame, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the U.S. Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
  • He retired from coaching track when the team won its first state track championship in 2000.
  • He is the author of four books: The Long Green Line; Motivation - The Name of the Game; Running To the Top of the Mountain; and Coaching Cross Country Successfully.
  • In 2008, a movie was made about him and his team, “The Long Green Line.” It is available on Amazon, YouTube and GooglePlay.
  • Over 150 of Coach Newton’s athletes have gone to college on athletic scholarships worth more than $1,000,000.
  • Although he no longer runs, he still does 100 push ups every day as well as stretching exercises.

His decision to retire is based on both his increasingly limited mobility, and his confidence in Coach Charlie Kern to keep the long green line going.

Long after his students have left York, his mantras remain inscribed in their hearts: “Always do your best” “Be on time” and “It’s nice to be great, but far greater to be nice.”

On Sunday, Nov. 6, there will be a celebration of Coach Newton’s career at York High School, following the cross country state meet that weekend.