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West Allis Hale's Kurtz attains cross country Hall of Fame

Long-time coach honored by peers

Ron Kurtz is seen here after his West Allis Hale boys cross country team won the Division 1 state championship in 2000.

Ron Kurtz is seen here after his West Allis Hale boys cross country team won the Division 1 state championship in 2000.

Jan. 14, 2014

For Ron Kurtz, a small bit of jaw discomfort was a small price to pay for an evening of thrilling memories.

Kurtz, the longtime coach at West Allis Hale, was inducted into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Friday night in the presence of former and current top coaches, an Olympian and a number of his former runners.

"This was a tremendous event for me personally," he said. "I'm still trying to recover from the high. As a matter of fact, my jaws are literally still sore from smiling so much."

Coached for 41 years

Kurtz has coached cross country for 41 seasons, starting at Hale in the fall of 1976. Among his many accomplishments is the 2000 WIAA Division 1 state championship.

"I am humbled by the award," said Kurtz, who is also a member of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Hall of Fame for his track career. "When I first started coaching cross country, I was in awe of the successful coaches at the time and tried to emulate them.

"There were luminaries such as Bill Greiten at Racine Case, Bob Rymer at Menomonee Falls and the late Leighton Betz at Hale, to mention but a few. To be inducted into the same Hall of Fame that they are in is surreal."

Kurtz's induction ceremony was attended by 20 guests, including family members and former and current assistant coaches.

"I was very honored and grateful that so many people took time to come to the dinner and share the moment," he said. "All of (those in his party) deserve the credit for the award, and I accepted it on their behalf."

Kurtz's group included runners from his first team at Hale, including Don Fischer, who took third in the state in the mile run during his Hale career; Dave Mueller, a former UW-Parkside runner; Attorney Jeff Hynes and Dr. Mark Lawton.

Lawton's brother Jim, who won the conference championship and all-state cross country honors in 1975, was also present.

Brown helped win title

Paul Brown, who was the top runner on Hale's state championship team in 2000, also attended the dinner. Brown went on to become an All-American at UW-Oshkosh, winning a national championship.

Brown is currently the head girls coach at Oshkosh Lourdes and led that team to the WIAA Division 3 state championship in 2013. He won the Division 3 girls coach of the year award that same night.

"It made me very proud to see him accept the award," Kurtz added.

Other former runners and present and past assistants included Dave Jesse and Tony Miller, who were Kurtz's students in fourth grade; Dan Machmueller, a current assistant who was a student of Kurtz's in kindergarten; Mark Borkowski, currently a Milwaukee County Supervisor; Jim Gross, a UW-La Crosse All-American; and Kane Baker, who ran 50 marathons in 50 weeks in 50 states in 2012.

Current boys assistant Micah Hernandez and girls coach Terry Labinski, a former assistant of Kurtz's, were also on hand.

Kurtz shared the dais with fellow inductees Don Gehrmann, an Olympian who was voted the greatest mile runner in Big Ten Conference history; and Jeremy Gintoft, a former Marquette High School standout.

"I tried not to think too much when actually receiving the award at the banquet because I didn't want to get emotional and break down when giving my acceptance speech in front of 200 people," Kurtz admitted.

Kurtz is proud of the program he has built at Hale and is already looking forward to this fall, when the Huskies return six of their top seven runners from last season.

THE KURTZ FILE

WHO: Ron Kurtz, West Allis Hale boys cross country coach

WHAT: He was inducted into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame last week

His career highlights:

EARLY YEARS: He started coaching high school sports in 1970, when he was an assistant freshman football coach at Greenfield; in 1971, he was an assistant boys track coach at Dominican; in 1973, he assisted in coaching track at Milwaukee Marshall; he began coaching cross country at Marshall in the fall of 1973

HALE: He came to Hale in the fall of 1976 as the head coach in cross country and track, then stopped coaching track in 1982; his overall cross country record is 2,847-1,317

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