Sportswriter Steve Tietz will use this blog to try to duly reward the great, praise heartily the hard-working, uncover the unsung, and take to task the spoilsport, the foul-mouth and the crass in the local prep sports scene. He'll try to remember that kids are just kids and that coaches aren't in it for the money. He'll try to gently remind parents that the kids are playing for fun, not for profit and that the officials, though occasionally human and therefore prone to error, are there to ensure fair play and not out to get anyone.
Just as he has done for the past 34 Januaries, retired Menomonee Falls state Hall of Fame cross country coach Bob Rymer is collecting checks, updating lists and making sure speakers have hotel rooms for this weekend's Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Clinic at the Best Western Plus Midway Hotel in Brookfield.
The man who essentially co-founded the clinic with retired Racine Case Hall of Fame coach Bill Greiten (the pair have worked every one of the events) all those years ago, is also looking forward to catching up with some former athletes.
Falls Athletic Hall of Famers and University of Wisconsin All-Americans Tim Hacker and Joe Stintzi along with former UW teammates Jim Brice and John Easker will hold a panel discussion from 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. Friday after the dinner, and Hall of Fame introductions and Hacker will hold a separate session from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Right now, Rymer said he has about 120 people signed up for dinner and 155 for the clinic. The event has come a long ways since it was started.
"When we first did it," Rymer said, "we had it in three different sites (to accommodate travel considerations) and on different days but we eventually thought that one event would be a more manageable way of handling things.
"Back then, just a couple of us did everything- the awards, the organization, the dinner. Kay (his wife) helped out a lot in those days, too."
Now the responsibilities are spread out a little more widely. Though Rymer has been officially retired as a coach for the better part of a decade, he still stands in as the WCCCA treasurer. He gets help from Greiten and from Wauwatosa East's Joe Vitrano.
"Now other coaches do the awards (at the dinner on Friday night) and others are mailing out the (reminder) post cards," he said. "It all works out."
Rymer keeps his hand on the pulse of the sport as he also serves as a cross country and track official and helps with the organization of such Falls cross country events as the season starting Age Group Challenge, the Matt Hadler Invitational and the Meet of Future Champions, the great event at the end of the season that allows junior varsity level runners one last chance at winning a race or turning in a personal best.
He'll be glad to catch up with Hacker and Stintzi as well as a host of other friends from the sport this weekend. There will be a host of vendors and coaches giving presentations, too, over the weekend and the WCCCA is also conducting a "Warming their Winter" clothing drive for the homeless and needy served at the Waukesha County St. Vincent DePaul Society.
Items can be dropped off at the clinic's registration table.
Also during Friday night's dinner there will be WCCCA Hall of Fame ceremonies for three new inductees including Cedar Grove/Belgium coach Ron Wood, former Wisconsin Lutheran and state collegiate runner Jerry Husz and longtime Whitefish Bay coach Mike Miller.
Miller, who once called Rymer "cross country's Vince Lombardi" for his influence and success, will be bringing a large contingent to the dinner, said Rymer, which should help make the event a happy one.
Rymer, who was famous for being ubiquitous at cross country meets while at the same time maintaining a low profile and just letting the runners run, likes Miller for many of the same qualities.
"He's always been an outstanding person," Rymer said. "As a coach, he's someone you don't even know is there (at a meet) and that's the way it should be."
But Rymer will be there in Brookfield on Friday and Saturday, just as he always is, making sure things go smoothly. The WCCCA clinic wouldn't be the same without him.