Phillips hangs up clipboard

MARQUETTE – After 44 years of coaching runners in cross country and track, Marquette Senior High School coach Dale Phillips has decided to retire.

Phillips started coaching JV football at Marquette in 1965, doing that for five seasons. He was head cross country coach for 40 years and coached track and field for 33 seasons at the school, both starting in 1977.

Phillips also coached girls track during the infancy of Westwood High School from 1973-76, which includes the two years when the school was still at the old National Mine School.

“With my age and health issues, it’s just time,” said Phillips, who concluded his career at Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Cross Country Finals in Flat Rock.

“Over my career, I’ve had a number of outstanding coaches who have assisted me over my career.

“To mention a few who immediately come to mind are my 20-year association with Jeff Stevenson in track and cross country, Keith Whitman who was my first assistant in cross country, and Kyle Detmers who had recently been working with me in cross country and who I’ve assisted in track.”

Phillips was part of a combined 70 U.P. cross country and track and field, along with 22 runner-up finishes and 84 conference championships. In his most recent outing, the Marquette girls were U.P. Division 1 runners-up and the boys placed third.

“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of coaching many great athletes, male and female, and many were individual champions in track as well as 36 individual champions in cross country of which they amassed 21 (U.P.) Runner of the Year Awards,” Phillips said. “Some of these runners have gone on to have good college careers such as Jon Ottoson and Catherine Angeli at Northern Michigan University, Stuart Kramer at Michigan Tech, Robin Martin at University of Pennsylvania, Michelle Scherer and Al LaFountain at Saginaw Valley State and Erica Helmila at Grand Valley State.

“Now, I look forward to following the careers of present-day runners Lindsey Rudden and Lance Rambo at Michigan State.”

Holly Blowers, also a 2016 MSHS graduate, is running at Western Michigan University.

Phillips is a 10-time U.P. Coach of the Year and was selected Coach of the Year in girls’ cross country in 1982 by the all-sports Michigan High School Coaches Association and the Michigan Interscholastic Track and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Redettes were the state’s top-ranked Class A team that season after they knocked off the No. 1 Lower Peninsula team, Clio, at the Holly Invitational. It was one of the first times a U.P. school participated in a Lower Peninsula meet.

He was inducted into the MITCA Hall of Fame in 2005, the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and MHSCA Hall of Fame the following year. He served as president of the U.P. Cross Country Coaches Association for 12 years and many times as meet director for the U.P. cross country finals and regional track finals.

Phillips said that he enjoyed working with high school boys and girls and coaching multiple students from families.

“The fact that I stayed with the programs for such a long period of time is due to the runners and families getting to know me, the emphasis I put on the athletes receiving awards for their efforts in the programs and helping them if they wanted to continue their running careers in college,” Phillips said. “I appreciate the support I received from businesses in the community, school administrators, including the many athletic directors I worked under, and my family and friends and my wife Chris, plus Bill Sved.

“The support I received from businesses in the community helped the programs raise money for uniforms, warm-ups and travel expenses to downstate meets. I’ve also enjoyed the rapport I had with fellow coaches across the U.P.”

Phillips, a 1961 graduate of Ishpeming High School, received his bachelor of science degree in secondary education from NMU in 1965. He continued his education at Northern, where he received his master’s in science education five years later.

In 1976, Phillips was selected U.P. Science Teacher of the Year that was presented by MTU and NMU.

Phillips, involved with high school sports for 52 years, is also a recipient of the National High School Gold Award, presented by Scholastic Coach Magazine, for his career coaching wins in boys’ and girls’ cross country and girls’ track.