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Published: Thursday, 7/21/2011

Eastwood track coach retiring

White guided boys team to 2 state titles in his 23 years at helm

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
White White
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PEMBERVILLE, Ohio -- Gary White used a football mentality and scientific approach to his duties as the boys track coach at Eastwood High School.

The unusual blend for track worked to great effect as he turned a fledgling Eagles program into a state powerhouse. White, who led Eastwood to two Division II state titles, recently announced his retirement after 23 seasons.

"I had a very intense attitude. I got after the guys," White said. "It most definitely was a football mentality. I knew that would help put us on the map."

White led Eastwood to its first state title in 2009 and the Eagles repeated in 2010. White coached 36 athletes that were named All-Ohio.

The Eagles captured their 11th straight Suburban Lakes League title last spring, and they won 13 of the last 14 SLL titles. White finished with a 177-38-2 dual meet record.

"We went undefeated for many, many years," White said. "We didn't lose many duals or invitationals. That was the end of a long thought-out process to make Eastwood track competitive not just in the SLL, but in the region and state. I've been very fortunate."

The 53-year-old Pemberville native said he decided to retire to give his longtime assistant, Brian Sabo, a shot at running the program. White called Sabo "the last piece of the puzzle" when he came to the program in 1998.

"I still have the passion for it," White said. "I have so much respect for Brian and what he has done. It was his time for him to take the program over."

Sabo will look to extend Eastwood's seven-season undefeated, dual meet streak (68-0). The Eagles have lost just two SLL duals since 1996.

At the time he took over in 1988, White was an assistant football coach at Eastwood under veteran Jerry Rutherford.

"I was a big-time football coach with Jerry and we thought we'd use track and field to get the kids in shape for football," White said. "That was the goal. Then I really started getting into it and I realized there was a lot of coaching and thought involved in it."

White said he gave up his assistant football position to put all of his energies into track.

White said he learned from some college coaches that "you can actually coach speed." The scientific approach to designing workouts also appealed to his love of numbers as a mathematics teacher, a position he will keep for three more years.

"I made out charts and ways to warm up," White said. "I designed workouts to make people faster."

He said he would have different daily schedules for the sprinters, middle distance, and long-distance runners.

"I knew every day what we should be doing based on their needs," White said. "That got things rolling. That's where the depth started coming."

He said things started to change in the mid-1990s. His first year, White had just 17 boys in the program. This past season more than 60 boys participated.

Eastwood won the first SLL title in school history in 1997.

"The kids at Eastwood made track a priority," White said.

Rutherford, whose Eastwood football teams captured five straight SLL titles from 2002-06, said the relationship with White's track team has been mutually beneficial.

"It's not a secret that a lot of our success has been because of our track program," Rutherford said. "I wanted them to run for Gary White because we knew they would work hard and be coached up. It amazed me how much they would improve their speed."

Rutherford said he liked that his players would be in the weight room in the spring.

"Obviously they got in shape. But it was more that they are competing," he said.

White also acknowledged that football is still the No. 1 sport, which also was his first love. Gary's father, Bob White, was a longtime high school football coach in Middleville, Mich.

He wanted to follow in his late father's footsteps, which included induction into the Michigan High School hall of fame.

"He coached everything for 30-plus years. I watched his kids admire and respect him," White said.

He said his father passed away before Eastwood won its first state title.

"But I had a photo of him with me in my notebook I was carrying," White said. "That was for him."

White has earned Division II coach of the year honors twice and will be up for induction into the Ohio State High School Athletic Association hall of fame next year.

White also credited longtime Lakota track coach Myron Cline for his success, calling him his mentor.

White said he has trouble singling out athletes. But he said Justin Welch, who won state titles in the discus and shot put in 2010, and distance runner Jimmy O'Brien were special.

"If I started to name one, I have to name 50," he said. "There are too many kids that were state quality because we worked hard together. I've had a lot of great success and great memories."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6354.



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