You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

End of an era: KR coach retires after 35 seasons


There’s a stretch of pavement in northern Clark County barely a mile long named Weber Road.

A frequent training location for the Kenton Ridge High School cross country and track teams, it could easily be renamed the Don Monroe Highway.

With two leg-fatiguing hills, the road course deserves respect. It challenges the Cougars to find the best of their abilities. And, as the Cougars’ runners will attest, Weber Road is as tough as they come. The same has been said about Monroe.

For 35 seasons Monroe has guided the Cougars’ cross country and track teams. After Friday, his run as a social studies teacher and coach came to an end when Monroe retired from both professions. Overall, Monroe taught for 41 years and served as a head coach for 40.

“He’s an incredible person. … It was his discipline, his willingness to push us to be better as an athlete, a student and a citizen,” said 1985 KR graduate Mike McDermond, the president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. “Don is about the whole person, not just on the track or the cross country course.”

Off and running

Monroe’s own running career started in the fifth grade. He finished fourth in the 50-yard dash in the Springfield city championship meet and won a yellow ribbon. Monroe, a Springfield South graduate, still has that yellow ribbon. And his passion for the sport.

It saved his life in 2000.

At the age of 50, doctors discovered one of his arteries was 95 percent blocked — called the widow-maker — and underwent double-bypass surgery.

“If I had a heart attack, I wouldn’t have made it,” Monroe said. “I have an athletic heart (an enlarged heart due to daily exercise) and your heart basically explodes. … Not drinking, not smoking and running all my life really saved my life.”

Monroe had the bypass in November. He was running alongside his cross country team by March. When Monroe sends his teams on the grueling six-mile trek starting at Kenton Ridge and going to the end of Weber Road and back to KR, he goes with them.

“He wasn’t one of those coaches that barked out the workout and there you go. No, he was out there with us,” said 1995 KR grad Heather (Nienaber) Kasner, who also taught with Monroe for seven years.

Monroe averages 3 to 5 miles a day. Kasner’s mom still calls her to let her know coach ran past the house yet again.

“I always tried to set a good example,” Monroe said. “I never asked them to do something I hadn’t done myself or couldn’t handle. They bought into that example of ‘practice what you preach.’”

Fan in the stands

Fittingly, Monroe’s final season of coaching will conclude at the D-II state championships in Columbus in the coming week. Un-fittingly, it’ll come as a fan. Monroe will watch from the stands — just like he did Saturday at the D-II regional finals at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium. Since he’s officially retired, he’ll lose a month of retirement benefits if he coaches from the infield.

Freshman Jamari McDavid and sophomore Iman Salhieh are determined to send Monroe out with a state championship. McDavid won D-II regional titles in the 100-meter dash and long jump. Salhieh finished second in the 100 and third in the 200. Both are also on the fourth-place 400-relay team going to state along with seniors Karrah Batten and Sara Thornton.

“I wouldn’t want any other coach,” Salhieh said. “I love him to death.”

During his tenure, his Kenton Ridge cross country and track teams have combined to win four Central Buckeye Conference titles, four district titles and two regional titles. He guided a cross country team to state meet in three consecutive seasons from 1983-85. Candace Leep won the 1,600-meter state championship under his tutelage in 2000. Burt Anderson won the shot in 1987.

Those moments are undeniably special. But it’s athletes like junior Derek Desentz that can trump them. Three weeks ago Desentz was throwing the shot and discus. Two weeks ago Monroe put Desentz in the 200-meter dash and he won a Division II district championship.

“(The best part) for me was seeing athletes go beyond what they think they can do,” Monroe said. “When you take a diamond in the rough and you polish it.”

The art room at Kenton Ridge High School is filled with 125 trophies, all meets and invitationals won by Monroe’s track and cross country teams. Space in the trophy case is at a premium, so Monroe is taking the plaques off the trophies and placing them on a display board to take up less space.

He’s donating the trophies to the Special Olympics.

Northwestern assistant principal Brad Beals knows all about Monroe’s golden heart. When Beals’ father passed away during his senior season in 1984, Monroe honored Beals’ father with an award. The Keith Beals Award, given to someone who goes above and beyond to help the program, is still awarded today.

“It was something else coach did that was just first-class in my mind,” said Beals, who was Monroe’s first athlete to qualify for state in cross country and track. “I think as a coach myself, what he was able to instill in me and what he meant to me personally is what I try to emulate as a coach. I want my kids to feel about me the way I do about coach Monroe.”

Once a Cougar, always a Cougar

When you ran for Monroe you were family. From pre-race meals at Giovanni’s to never letting a runner have to work out alone, the Cougars embraced the pack mentality.

In Beals’ senior season, he qualified for the state cross country meet as an individual. As the lone runner left, Monroe ran alongside Beals for encouragement and companionship.

“I think my best memories are going on long runs with Coach … when you’re out there doing it on your own because you’re the only one left, and coach jumping in there and running with me,” Beals said. “Coach was always as excited as I was when I did well.”

These days much of Nienaber’s running has to do with family errands. But in a testament to her devotion to Monroe, she’d run the proverbial extra mile for Monroe.

“If he would say, ‘hey let’s get some people together and run a full marathon,’ I would do it,” Nienaber said. “I don’t care how bad it would hurt.”

Heck, she’d even run Weber Road again.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Archie Miller: Cunningham intends to play this season
Archie Miller: Cunningham intends to play this season

Dayton Flyers sophomore forward Josh Cunningham continues to make progress in his rehabilitation. After a 67-46 victory over Saint Louis on Sunday at UD Arena, coach Archie Miller said Cunningham intends to play again this season. Cunningham hasn't played since tearing a ligament in his ankle in the second game of the season Nov. 15 at Alabama...
Dayton’s Kyle Davis misses second straight game with injury
Dayton’s Kyle Davis misses second straight game with injury

The Dayton Flyers still haven't played a game at full strength this season, and they never will if you consider the loss of Steve McElvene, whose death in May robbed the team of its most dominant shot-blocking force. Dayton beat Saint Louis 67-46 on Sunday at UD Arena with senior guard Kyle Davis on the bench. He missed his second straight game with...
Wright State routs Oakland for third straight win
Wright State routs Oakland for third straight win

Wright State sophomore Parker Ernsthausen came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points Sunday as the Raiders routed Oakland 88-67. It was the third win a row for the Raiders (14-7, 4-3 Horizon League) as they avenged an 81-62 loss to the Grizzlies (15-6, 5-3) in December in the conference opener. Called on early after Steven Davis picked up...
Dayton Flyers rout Saint Louis to move into first place by themselves
Dayton Flyers rout Saint Louis to move into first place by themselves

The Dayton Flyers routed Saint Louis 67-46 on Sunday at UD Arena to move into first place by themselves in the Atlantic 10. Richmond lost 82-77 to George Mason, and La Salle lost 90-52 to VCU. The Spiders and Explorers suffered their second A-10 losses. At 15-4 and 6-1, Dayton leads those two teams and VCU by a game. Star of the game: Scoochie Smith...
MLB mourning the loss of Ventura, Marte in separate car crashes in Dominican Republic
MLB mourning the loss of Ventura, Marte in separate car crashes in Dominican Republic

Major League Baseball is mourning the loss of two players: Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former MLB third baseman Andy Marte. Both men were killed in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic, the Associated Press reported. The fast-throwing, right-handed Ventura was from the Dominican Republic. He was 25. The Royals confirmed...
More Stories