Cross Country |
Jan. 13, 2011
By Dave Malaska
Over 30 years of coaching the University of Cincinnati's track and cross country teams, there have been plenty of accolades for Bill Schnier. He was named Coach of the Year in Conference USA 15 times and was the conference's Coach of the Decade for the league's first 10 years. He's led the Bearcats to 12 conference team championships and a remarkable 129 individual titles. He's had 19 NCAA qualifiers and six All-Americans. He's even mentored two Olympic medalists.
The list is as impressive as it is long.
And it's about to get longer. This month, Schnier is being inducted into two halls of fame.
This weekend, Schnier will be enshrined in the sports hall for his alma mater, Capital University, just outside of Columbus. Fourteen days later, he'll enter the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches' hall.
As special as it will be for the Bearcat coach, the honors may mean even more to some of Schnier's longtime friends who will be on hand to see him feted. Another former Bearcat coach, Chuck Hunsaker, will be among them.
Hunsaker, a fellow Capital alum and former teammate of Schnier's, nominated him for the Crusaders' honor. He remembers meeting Schnier, who friends called "Wilf," when they were juniors at the school.
Schnier played two years of baseball for the Crusaders before trying out for track.
"Capital is a small school, so our coach, Jack Landrum, was willing to give anyone a chance," remembers Hunsaker. "Guys would try out all the time. We called them 'one-day wonders' -- they'd be there one day, then you'd wonder where they went."
When Schnier showed up, the track veterans chalked him up as another wonder.
"He was a baseball player. We figured he'd be around for a day or two, then we'd never see him again," Hunsaker adds.
How wrong they were. Schnier stuck around for the season and was competitive, first as a sprinter then running the 880 for Capital. He didn't win races, but Hunsaker says the newcomer was determined.
"We lived in the same dorm, and there were times after workouts Wilf would practically crawl up the hall's steps on his hands and knees he was so totaled. But he wouldn't quit. He inspired us," says the former UC mentor.
The next year, after a year of training, Schnier made his mark as one of the top student-athletes the schools ever produced as a member of six school record-setting relay teams and setting the individual record for the 800 meters. His individual record still stands, some 45 years later.
After the pair graduated in 1966, Hunsaker and Schnier kept in touch as the former took coaching jobs that led him to UC and eventually West Point, and Schnier coached at Ohio's Trotwood Madison High School before taking the Cincinnati job in 1980.
While at Trotwood, Schnier befriended another local high school coach.
"Even then, you could tell Bill was special," remembers Jack Denson, who coached in the high school ranks for 42 years and now serves as a meet official around the state. He's also in charge of the OATCCC's hall ceremonies.
"It's not often that you get someone going into the hall that you know personally, like I've known Bill," says Denson. "That'll make this year even more special to me, seeing him honored."
Though they only coached high school together for a few years, Denson followed Schnier's career. He saw the Cincinnati coach on the recruiting trail, at OATCCC clinics and, later, as he served as a meet official. Denson watched as Schnier built success at UC, saw all of the titles and nodded approval when Schnier started the Bearcats women's track program in 1996.
He's been especially proud to witness the Bearcats' academic excellence under Schnier.
"That's they way I was brought up. That's the way Bill was brought up, too -- to teach the kids that there are more important things than running, or winning," says Denson. "Bill is unique in what he's done at Cincinnati, at the college level. He's created a family atmosphere there. You see it in the kids when they're warming up, they way they interact with each other. You see it in the way they compete, and what they do after they graduate."
He's looking forward to the induction gala, and seeing Schnier surrounded by friends as he's honored. So, too, is Hunsaker, who admits he'll get a little emotional at this weekend's ceremony.
"Wilf has had a great career, emphasizing all the right things," he says. "To see him getting into Capital's Hall of Fame, knowing that two weeks later he'll go into the OATCCC's... yeah, I'll get a little choked up. No one deserves it more. He's a special guy."