Jeff Walz is 57 years old — Thirty-three years of which he has spent teaching elementary students in the Onamia school district.

Thirty-three also happens to be the number of years this man has had his hands in coaching at his school, including girls track for the past 32.

But few knew, until the Onamia school board meeting on July 12, that 2021 was to be his final season as head coach of the Mille Lacs Raiders track squad — a combined team made up of athletes from Onamia and Isle. As an item on the school board agenda, it was read aloud that Walz was resigning his position as track coach for the Raiders.

Asked what prompted him to pull the plug after more than three decades at the helm of girls track, Walz said: “I’m old, I’m tired and maybe it’s time for a new face in this program.”

As for being tired, Walz offered this quip in a half-hearted-jokingly manner about how his job description has changed over the years: “Back in the day, several people on the Onamia teaching staff were hired to help set up and run our home track meets. I would imagine that they collectively received around $3,000 for their efforts. Fifteen years ago, those chores were cut, and they fell on me (without pay of course) along with my coaching duties. In the long run, I figure I saved the District around $45,000 for doing those jobs.”

However, anyone who knows Walz, understands coaching was never about the money. It was always about the kids and his 30-plus years of devotion to his track and cross-country programs, along with the years spent coaching junior high basketball is proof of that. He was never averse to going the extra mile for what he truly loved…and he did just that. He put in the time and effort for the good of the OHS and IHS athletes.

Several would-be seniors have already made their views known about their coach retiring, including a gal who is just a few points shy of reaching the 1,000-point mark in her career. She mentioned the possibility of not returning during her senior year, and another outstanding athlete expressed her disappointment in not having him around next spring.

But, Walz said it just might be time to go.

If an award were to be given for the longest, continuous period of time a teacher in the Onamia school district was involved in coaching, there is little doubt Walz would walk away with the prize.

Thirty-three continuous years, most of the time coaching three sports per year, is commendable by any standards. In fact, this coming year, cross-country will mark his 99th season as a coach and junior high basketball would be his 100th.

And, who knows, possibly, as per his teaching contract in the Onamia School District, he could be “assigned” the track job for at least one more season.

Stay tuned.

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