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Written by Rod O'Donnell on 24 March 2016.

In the spring of 1971, a young coach and an enthusiastic athletic director at Division III Caldwell High School presented to the Board of Education a plan to start a cross-country program. The proposal was approved, and the young coach was paid $300.00, in addition to his teaching salary.

During the first three years of existence, the results were astounding. Competing in a regional where only one team advanced to the State Meet, the newly-formed program advanced each year to the championship, placing 8th (last place,) 2nd, and 1st; however, this was only the beginning of what would develop  into one of the greatest dynasties in any sport in Ohio high school history.

The young coach would move on, but the program grew to even greater heights under new leadership. The Noble County cross-country team placed 2nd at the State Meet in 1983 and 1984. They would not lose a state championship for the next eight years.  By the end of that amazing streak, in the 22 years the program had existed, the team had finished in the runner-up position three times, produced nine individual state champions, and won nine state championships as teams, in 1973, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992. The 1986 team was named as national champions by MileSplit USA. During the eight-year streak, they competed primarily against Division I schools, leading up to the District Meet.

These great athletes, their families, and coaches (Rod O’Donnell, Ron Martin, Dugan Hill) recently gathered on a mild, early-February night, before a home basketball game, to witness the unveiling of permanent banners in the Caldwell gym, commemorating the nine championship teams.

However, the Caldwell story is about far more than winning many ultimate titles in a high school sport. It was, more importantly, about a group of young men, their parents, and a community who worked together to reach high levels of excellence. This was evident by those former athletes who reflect the values that we hope sport teaches. There was no doubt that the program that started many years ago on the country roads of little-known Noble County and that continues to the present is greatly responsible for helping make the lives of these young men, their coaches, their families, and an entire community better. The following quote summarizes this historic program:

“And even if we are occupied with more important things, and even if we attain honor or fall into misfortune, still let us remember how good it once was here, when we were all together, united by a good and a kind feeling, which made us perhaps better than we are.”

(Fydor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell


Read more of Rod O’Donnell’s Keeping Track articles on -

KEEPING TRACK - Furman Elite Training Group -


Keeping Track - 2 Divisions for 120 Lacrosse teams?

Boy's Division II and Division III -

Boy's Division I -


KEEPING TRACK - Football and Track Athletes -

 The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championships -

Cross Country -

 Track Faces Challenges that could have adverse effects thus causing severe damage -

Marketing Track & Field -

Student Athlete’s Questions -

The Need to Speak Up -

A new book by John McDonnell -

KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO -

Random Thoughts -

Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program -

 Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision -

Life Lessons from Cross Country -

Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches -

London Olympics -

 Improving as a Coach –

You Only Go Around Once -

Dear Jesse Owens –

West Virginia State Cross Country Championship –

SPIRE Institute -

Why is the OHSAA Treating Cross Country Different than All of the Other Sponsored Sports?

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