The Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches’ Association, founded in the mid-1960s, was the brain child of Fr. Dale Grubba who coached at Holy Name Seminary in Madison. Within a few years, the presidency passed to Bob White of Albany High School and in the late 70s Joe Vitrano of Wauwatosa East was elected to a two-year term. During his tenure, because of the nation-wide gasoline crisis, the WIAA eliminated State Regionals for Cross Country. This move was extremely unpopular among the coaches in the state. Vitrano appealed to the WIAA to reconsider on behalf of the coaches’ association; however, because the association registered on thirty-five to forty members, the WIAA would not recognize the WCCCA as representative of Wisconsin’s Cross Country coaches. As a result of this rebuke Vitrano contacted Bill Greiten of Racine Case High School and Bob Rymer of Menomonee Falls North. As both were very successful in the sport and both former officers of the WCCCA, he sought their advice as to what direction the association might take to bolster its membership. During summer meetings at Vitrano’s home the three decided that an effective way to attract members could very well be to sponsor a state-wide coaching clinic. Hence the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches’ Clinic was born. Now, 2019 being its fortieth year, the clinic regularly attracts over two hundred coaches from Wisconsin and other states. These three coaches would also devise a new awards structure for member coaches and state athletes and a new rating system of teams during the course of the season.
In its first year, 1980, the clinics were offered in three cities: LaCrosse, West Bend and Wausau. Because the clinics attracted 127 coaches all told, Vitrano, Greiten and Rymer thought it more efficient to hold the clinic in one location, Pewaukee’s Country Inn. Since then the location has moved about to Waukesha, Wauwatosa and, now, Brookfield.
In subsequent years, Chuck Bradley of Kenosha Tremper and Jim Kearney of Marquette University High School joined the clinic staff and the five have collectively contributed to an event which is not very popular and considered highly worthwhile by the state’s coaches.
This year the mantle will be passed to five competent successors: Dominic Newman of Shorewood High School, Joe Costa of Marquette University High School, Rich Raney of Muskego High School, Mackenzie Laska of Wauwatosa East High School and Kurt Kaczor of Arrowhead High School.
In parting the five outgoing would like to leave the five incoming with words from Lt Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field”:
To you from failing hands we throw the torch.
Be yours to hold it high.