LEGEND RETIRES — Legendary Fairmont Excessive College head observe & discipline coach Bob Bonk chats with Cardinals’ co-captain Carissa Saxton on the heels of a relay race in the course of the 2022 True Workforce Class AA state meet in Might on the Stillwater Excessive College campus. The Fairmont women observe & discipline lineup went on to seize sixth place on the competitors. After teaching prep observe & discipline for 51 years, Bonk has formally retired because the Cardinals’ head coach. (Picture by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — For the final half of a century, Fairmont residents may depend on three constants in the course of the month of March — daylight saving time begins, the spring equinox happens and Cardinals’ mentor Bob Bonk kicks off varsity observe & discipline apply.

“Relating to the actually nice coaches, all people is aware of within the backs of their minds that retirement will occur in some unspecified time in the future within the distant future,” mentioned Randy Soma, who etched his title within the report books beneath Bonk’s tutelage as a prep standout, along with working immediately with the legendary coach as each Fairmont Excessive College’s athletic director from 1998-2011 and as an assistant observe & discipline coach throughout his final 5 spring campaigns. “Everybody simply hopes it doesn’t occur straight away.”

After a storybook observe & discipline teaching profession that spanned 51 years, Bob Bonk has locked the fieldhouse doorways and turned off the lights beaming onto the working floor that bears his title on the Fairmont Excessive College campus for one final time.

The uncommon member of 4 Halls of Fame — the esteemed Minnesota Excessive College Coaches Affiliation, the Minnesota Excessive College Monitor & Discipline Coaches Affiliation, the Fairmont Athletic Corridor of Fame and the Minnesota Excessive College Cross Nation Coaches Affiliation — mentioned there wasn’t “a” decisive consider hanging up his cease watches, whistles and clipboards, however he simply knew it was time.

“Deb and I’ve been tied to the varsity calendar ever since we had been married. Don’t get me improper — it’s been a enjoyable experience, but when we’re ever going to actually get pleasure from life, it’s now,” mentioned Bob Bonk, who stepped down as Fairmont cross nation coach final Nov. 16 after an unbelievable 46-year tenure. “Once we’re youthful, time appears limitless, however because the years go, we understand we don’t have an infinite quantity of tomorrows.

“Deb and I’ll make extra selections about what we need to do as soon as Labor Day weekend is over, however I don’t plan on being a stranger round Fairmont sports activities by any means.

“I instructed (FHS actions administrator) Mat (Mahoney) to not put me to work at a observe meet once I present up subsequent spring. For the primary time in a protracted, very long time, I simply need to sit alongside the backstretch and benefit from the motion,” Bonk mentioned with fun.

The previous Fairmont Excessive College steerage counselor, who retired from that profession again in 2007, exits his days on the observe & discipline helm with what can solely be described as a “robust ending kick.”

The multi-tasking Cardinal women lineup captured sixth place throughout this yr’s Class AA True Workforce state championships, Sawyer Tordsen struck gold within the Minnesota State Excessive College League’s Class AA state boys discus competitors, whereas Nelson Remington powered his solution to the MSHSL’s Class AA wheelchair division’s 100-meter state crown.

“Our women program featured a few of the finest student-athletes I’ve ever been related to statistically, within the classroom and in on a regular basis life,” mentioned Bonk. “Our boys had been an excellent group total, too.

“Nelson did his personal coaching quite a lot of the time and Brad Johnson coached Sawyer within the throws, so let’s be sincere, I didn’t coach both one actually, so I don’t know the way a lot credit score I deserve,” a grinning Bonk mentioned.

“That’s how really humble he’s about teaching,” mentioned Soma, who’s at present the assistant government director of the South Dakota Excessive College Athletic Affiliation. “He’s such a terrific evaluator of highschool athletes and works onerous at determining put folks in the best locations to not solely assist the staff achieve success, however to additionally instill confidence from a person perspective. That’s a present not all coaches possess and you’ll’t train that or duplicate it.”

Tordsen and Remington grew to become the Cardinals’ twelfth and thirteenth state boys champions on the MSHSL meet, becoming a member of an elite group led by two-time state gold medalists Neil Hanson and Paul Mallory. Hanson captured the 1999 Class A state titles in each the 1,600- and three,200-meter runs, whereas Mallory swept each hurdle occasions — the 110-meter highs and the 300s — to steer Fairmont to the 2008 MSHSL state boys championship.

Bonk additionally coached 51 all-state medalists within the boys ranks from 1978 to 2022, together with a staggering 161 particular person/ relay convention champions.

The Fairmont boys program compiled a 1,472-235-4 total staff report — an 86-percent successful clip — throughout Bonk’s esteemed teaching span. The Cardinals claimed 20 convention crowns and 22 Sentinel Relays titles, together with this spring’s championship.

Neil Hanson performed an integral position in guiding the Cardinals to the 1998 True Workforce state championship — one in every of 5 appearances within the elite occasion.

“Mr. Bonk has given a lifetime to the game of observe & discipline, and he leaves an enduring legacy that the varsity and training employees will look to proceed,” mentioned Hanson, a FHS graduate who captured the 1998 state cross nation gold medal — together with the 1- and 2-mile observe titles his senior prep season — earlier than incomes All-American honors as a part of the Minnesota Gophers’ males’s medley relay staff in 2002. “I used to be blessed to have a coach along with his expertise at the highschool degree.

“Sarcastically, I believed if he (Bonk) may dangle on for 10 extra years or so after I graduated and coach my youthful brother Kevin, it will be the proper situation for my household.

“Twenty years later, Mr. Bonk is teaching my daughter Macy within the Class AA state meet in a relay race. That’s unbelievable.”

If one thinks Bonk’s profession numbers on the boys’ aspect of the ledger are mind-numbing, the statistics are off the charts within the women ranks, too.

From a staff perspective, Bonk caps a women teaching span from 1983-2022 with 5 True Workforce state championships (1991, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001) and 18 True Workforce sectional crowns — together with a consecutive run from 1987-2003.

The Cardinals additionally certified in 2018, however satirically earned a spot on this spring’s state meet through a wildcard spot.

The Fairmont women program captured 27 Sentinel Relays crowns and 26 convention titles, together with championship trophies in each occasions this spring.

Bonk’s Cardinals, who generated 1,510 wins total, produced third-place showings at each the 2004 and 1988 MSHSL state meets.

Lisa (Ristau) Eckroth, who’s at present a company account director for the Grifols bio-tech pharmaceutical firm within the Twin Cities, swept each hurdles championships throughout her senior observe season to assist engineer the Cardinals’ bronze-medal staff efficiency on the MSHSL-sponsored state competitors in 1988.

“I can not really measure the constructive affect that Mr. Bonk had on my life as a counselor and a coach,” mentioned (Ristau) Eckroth, who additionally produced two extra of the Cardinals’ seven total state observe & discipline champions by placing gold within the 300 hurdles in each 1985 and 1986. “First, he’s a improbable particular person at coronary heart, and second, he’s fiercely aggressive with an unbelievable consideration to element.

“I’ll be sincere — I struggled with having confidence in myself and I had a worry of failure once I was in highschool. The counselor aspect of him helped me overcome that.”

Not solely did (Ristau) Eckroth etch her title into the Fairmont Excessive College observe & discipline program’s report e-book, she went on to turn out to be an 11-time All-American at North Dakota State College, together with a second-place end within the heptathlon on the collegiate nationwide meet.

“He simply is aware of carry out the very best in everybody who crosses his path,” mentioned (Ristau) Eckroth. “He will likely be sorely missed.”

“It’ll be fairly a job attempting to fill his footwear, however hopefully we will discover somebody who shares Bob’s ardour for teaching the game,” mentioned Mat Mahoney, who additionally competed beneath Bonk’s steerage throughout his highschool athletic days earlier than becoming a member of the Cardinal legend’s observe & discipline teaching employees shortly after changing into Fairmont’s actions administrator in 2012. “When folks come again to city in the course of the summer season, the vacations or particular occasions, he’s the man they search out and need to see.

“That’s how a lot he means to them, and that’s how a lot he has meant to our faculty district and the complete group.”

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