Sports Talk: One of the best running coaches around

While many Americans were viewing the San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks National Football Conference title game on television Sunday night, Dugan Hill was busy grading papers.

You see, the 57-year-old Noble County native is a dedicated teacher at Caldwell High.

Hill is also one of the greatest prep cross country coaches in the Buckeye State.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of good kids go through the program,” Hill said.

Recently, Caldwell athletic director Greg Mitts announced that Hill had been selected as the NFHS Coaches Association Mideast Sectional Coach of the Year for 2013.

“This is a very prestigious award,” Mitts said.

The Mideast Section includes Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

“This is a pretty big honor,” said Hill, who has accumulated numerous awards during his 35 years of coaching Redskins’ cross country and track and field at his prep alma mater. “I guess they’ll be sending me a certificate or something.”

Thing is, Hill didn’t really start out in the sport of cross country at Caldwell. In his freshman and sophomore years, he was a Redskins’ baseball player.

But when Hill became a junior in 1972, things changed, and he discovered he was a pretty fair country long-distance runner. That fall, he finished 15th at the state cross country meet while team Caldwell was runner-up.

The following year, a school milestone was achieved when the Redskin harriers captured their first state championship. Hill did his part by placing fourth overall in the field, and earning All-Ohio status in the process.

During the spring of 1974, Hill was also a state qualifier in the mile.

After getting his diploma from Caldwell in 1974, Hill attended Marietta College, where he graduated in 1979.

Returning to Caldwell, Hill became the head track and field boss (to this very day), and was also the assistant cross country coach from 1979 to 1986. As an assistant, he was a member of two state title teams, which included three-time all-stater Tony Carna.

In 1987, Hill was promoted to the XC helm, and has been there ever since.

And, what a run it’s been.

In his first six years as the head cross country coach, Hill guided the Redskins to as many first-place finishes at state. In his first year (1987), Brian Norris earned All-Ohio status.

During the last three falls of this team championship run, from 1990 to 1992, Brian Hesson captured three individual state crowns.

Caldwell has not won a state cross country title since 1992, but has always been competitive on the race course with double-digit All-Ohioans during that period.

Last fall, Hill’s protege Jenna Furr became his most recent all-state honoree.

On the track and field side, Hill has led the Redskin thinclads to three state runners-up. He’s coached every TF event at state, except the 100-meter, high hurdles, 4×100, 4×200, 300H, and long jump.

Hill’s resume also includes OATCCC Hall of Famer (1996), OATCCC President (1996-97 and 2014-25), and the OATCCC Ed Barker Award recipient (2006).

If teaching and coaching weren’t occupying his time enough, Hill was the Caldwell AD from 1999 to 2012.

When not coaching, Hill used to run in several road races, but not as many any more.

“I hadn’t run in one for awhile, but then last year, I did one in Baltimore (Ohio),” he said. “I finished and was even third in my age group.”

Hill is married (Sharon) and has a 30-year-old son (Brian) and 27-year-old daughter (Ashley), who both ran for him at Caldwell. Brian later competed at Rio Grande.

Hill shows no signs of slowing down as he prepares for the Caldwell spring track and field season.

But first things first, though, as there are some student papers to be graded.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com