By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association announced yesterday that longtime Newburyport High School cross-country head coach Don Hennigar will be inducted into its Coaches Hall of Fame.
Hennigar will be among four coaches inducted in this year’s ceremony, which will be held at The Lantana in Randolph on June 8. The other members of this year’s class are Dave Dickerson from Somerville, Frank Gallagher from Revere and Bob Smith from Frontier Regional.
“It’s humbling and honoring,” Hennigar said. “I look at it as a tribute to all these kids from all over the years, and to Tim [Foley] and all the other coaches I’ve worked with. It’s a tribute to the program, as much as it is an individual thing.”
Hennigar has been coaching track for 36 years overall, the last 30 of which have come at Newburyport High School. He’s coached the school’s cross-country team for 28 years, and he’s been on indoor track program’s coaching staff for the entire 17-year history of the team. He currently serves as an assistant coach in the winter and spring seasons.
The program has thrived under his leadership, especially over the past few years. Last fall, the boys cross-country team won its third consecutive state championship, and earlier this month the indoor track team polished off its fourth.
Foley, who has been working with Hennigar at NHS for nearly three decades, praised Hennigar for his selection, calling him one of the best coaches around and an absolutely deserving candidate for induction.
“I couldn’t ask anyone better to be with me. We’ve been together since 1985. I took over the boys program and he’s been at my right-hand side the whole time,” Foley said. “He’s set his own legacy at the cross-country program, that’s what he’s being honored for, and he’s done a tremendous job with us.”
Hennigar’s Hall of Fame announcement is just the latest in a recent run of good news for the veteran coach. Just last week, Hennigar was named Assistant Coach of the Year for Indoor Track, and prior to that, he got to travel to New York to watch two of his athletes compete in the National Championship meet.
Through all the highlights, great moments and championships, Hennigar said the thing that has made his career most rewarding at the end of the day has always been the kids themselves.
“The one thing that stands out since the beginning is the wonderful kids,” Hennigar said. “They’ve always been great kids through all the years, so easy to work with. I’ve been lucky to have had very supportive parents that have been extremely helpful with the different things we do. There’ve been particular days and meets that stand out, but the things that stand out the most have been having all these great kids to work with.”
Hennigar has coached more than 3,000 Newburyport athletes over the years, and if he has one legacy he’s most proud of, it’s that he was able to impart a love of running to many of them, in many cases, a love that has lasted a lifetime.
“I’m most proud of all the kids who are still involved with the sport. Some of them are coaching at the high school level now, some of them are running competitively, and some of them are running because they just love to run,” he said. “I think that long-lasting effect that becomes a part of their life is the most rewarding thing of all.”