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New Haven's Monaghan retiring ... sort of

Track legend has coached at the school since 1967

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 7:42 pm

To call Pat Monaghan a “throwback” or “old school” would be a disservice to the New Haven boys track and field coach. Sure, he started his coaching career in the district in 1966 and, yes, he was once known as an intimidating figure. He even learned his coaching techniques from black and white coaching manuals, complete with drawings.

Back in the day, Monaghan was actually known for being ahead of his time. When he had collected enough coaching films to fill a small library, he started making his own by splicing together a series of photos. And when the first motion picture cameras became available, he was sure to use them in all sorts of innovative ways.

But Friday, Monaghan will likely coach his final Northeast Hoosier Conference championships as a head coach. He is retiring as a social studies teacher and has asked the administration to look for a head boy's track and field coach, a post he's held since 1972.

Asked if he is retiring from coaching, Monaghan will only say that he needs time this a summer to step back and enjoy some time off. He may be back with the Bulldogs next season as an assistant or even volunteer. It's almost impossible to imagine New Haven track and field without Monaghan. Then again, we won't have to: four of his assistant coaches as well as head girls coach Larry Stemmler, all ran track for Monaghan at New Haven over the years. And they all plan to be back.

“Coach is the symbol of New Haven, both in school and in athletics,” said one of those assistants, Jim Fitzgerald (1980 grad). “His influence is everywhere in this community with the students he's taught and coached over the years. Even the track is named for him.”

Stemmler, a 1992 graduate, says it was Monaghan's teaching and coaching style that drew him to the profession.

“I saw the difference he made in people and how he cared, even for the kids like me who were not all-stars,” Stemmler said. “I even started coaching for Pat while I was in college (1994).”

Stemmler said it was Monaghan's dedication that stands out the most.

“He was watching film long before any other high school coach was doing it,” Stemmler said. “He wanted to do everything he could to help his athletes get better. And the harder they would work, the harder he would work.”

Monaghan said he had to work hard because he didn't have a track background and always felt like he was trying to catch up. Growing up in Iowa he was a wrestler and went on to compete at St. Ambrose University. After a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Venezuela, he applied for teaching and wrestling coaching jobs all over the Midwest. In 1966 he landed at Village Woods Junior High and after one year he moved over to New Haven Junior High.

At both schools, he started wrestling programs, but New Haven's high school wrestling coach was rather young, so Monaghan joined the track and field coaching staff. He coached the sprinters and hurdlers. When he became head coach a few years later, there was no one to coach the throwers, so he became a student of the shot put and discus events. The result: New Haven once had a 20-year streak of sending at least one thrower to the state meet.

“I learned pretty early that technique could make a big difference in this sport,” Monaghan said. “So we studied (film) of the very best and broke down film of our own athletes.”

Fitzgerald says Monaghan's reputation back then was different than it is today.

“I know a few guys around town who ran for Pat in his first few years,” Fitzgerald said. “They say he was a big, tough, intimidating coach. When he gave you a command, you jumped.”

Monaghan didn't perceive himself in that way but does admit that people tell him he's changed over the years.

“I'm sure I was more intense, but I was just trying to challenge kids,” Monaghan said. “Whether it was out on the track or in history class, I was excited about the subject and I think the kids recognized that.”

NHL Boys & Girls Track and Field Championships

When: Friday, 5 p.m.

Where: New Haven's Patrick D. Monaghan Track & Field Facilities.

Schedule: Girl's pole vault begins at 4:30 with other field events and the girl's 3,200 relay beginning at 5 p.m. Track finals begin at 6:15.

Girl's meet: There should be no drama in the team race as No. 7 Carroll is the heavy favorite. All the excitement will be when Bellmont's Alexis Harvey and Homestead's Ari Nelson line up against each other in the 100, 200 and long jump. Harvey has the state's best time in the 200 (25.3) and second-fastest in the 100 (12.23). Nelson has the third-best time in the 100 (12.24) and has the best long jump (19-3.5).

Boy's meet: The team battle will be between No. 9-ranked Carroll and un-ranked Homestead. The Chargers are led by distance runner Jon Harper. Harper has the state's best time in the 800 (1:54.59) and fourth-best in the 1,600 (4:14). Homestead is led by sprinter and hurdler Trevor Stanley, who has the state's third-best time in the 300 hurdles (38.3).