Northwestern High School cross country coach Tracy Cleland has retired after 26 years in charge of the Warriors boys and girls programs.
During his tenure, the Warriors cross country squad won a combined 19 Central Buckeye Conference championships, eight district titles and two regional titles. The Warriors also advanced to the state meet eight times — four each for the boys and girls teams — finishing in the top 10 all but once.
He also served as a coach on the Warriors track and field team, focusing on distance runners. Between the two sports, the Warriors had 17 All-Ohio athletes, including Jessie Oakes, who won the Division II state cross country title in 1998.
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“We’ve been blessed over the years,” he said. “It’s been fun.”
Angie Whip will serve as the Warriors cross country coach next season.
Cleland retired to spend more time with his family, particularly his wife, Lynn. Three of their four children have graduated high school, while daughter Jenna will be a senior this year.
“(Lynn has) driven to all these track meets and cross meets by herself for 50 seasons or so,” he said. “It was time for that (to change). Times have changed quite a bit. The expectations and the worth ethic has changed, plus my own health issues from last year. It kind of put time in perspective.”
Cleland has fully recovered after suffering a massive heart attack during track season in 2018.
“It tells you how quick life can be done,” he said. “We got to thinking afterwards about how many things we’d like to do or haven’t done yet that we didn’t have time to do.”
Cleland will continue to teach at Northwestern and will likely serve as a volunteer assistant with the Warriors girls basketball program this winter, he said.
“I’m going to slow life down, read some books and sit around the swimming pool,” Cleland said.
In the last 25 years, Clark County has become a hotbed for cross country with multiple schools sending athletes and teams to the state cross country meet. In particular, the quality of coaches has increased since he started coaching in the 1990s, he said.
“There are so many more high-quality coaches now,” Cleland said. “Coaches who aren’t just there to babysit and collect a check. The sport of distance running in general has really ratcheted it up. … There are very few teams who haven’t had state-level success at some point. It’s been fun to see.”
Cleland also coached all four of his children at Northwestern, including Stephanie and Ryan, both state qualifiers. His son Jaden ran in middle school, but decided to focus on baseball and later played collegiately at Cedarville University. He coached Jenna the last three seasons.
“It’s an opportunity that most people don’t get a chance to do,” he said.
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