Marks Reflects on 47 Year Coaching Career

ROCKFORD-It's not often you find one coach at one school overseeing one sports team for almost half a century. Lee Marks did that. He was the boys Track & Field coach at Guilford for 47 years from 1967 through this spring. 

Eyewitness News met Marks by Swanson Stadium Tuesday where Marks coached all those years. 

"I didn't think I'd be coaching this long," said Marks. "The old cliché you just take one year at a time, and it went fast. A wonderful, wonderful 47 years."

When Marks started coaching here, the stadium didn't exist.

"We had a grass track for practice, and we ran our meets at Beyer Stadium."

Marks had planned on returning next year to coach again, but he says he was told by Rockford School District officials that the district wants to move in another direction with a new coach. The school district has a policy of not commenting on personnel matters we were told in an email from the district headquarters last week.

Marks gets emotional when he thinks of all the kids he's coached. Too many to count.

"Each one I felt were champions because…(gets choked up) what they overcame to accomplish what they achieved."

One of those athletes Marks coached was current Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen.

"I really liked him. I really appreciated the approach, because he would dig in and work with everybody," says Christiansen. "Sometimes there was a disconnect between the rural kids and the city kids and all that, but no, he was really good."

Other track coaches also admire and respect what Marks has done.

"Lee Marks is an awesome coach. He's like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to track & field," says local track coach Bill Cossey.

Guilford won one conference championship under Marks. He says it's the memories, not the trophies and medals that are the athletes' rewards. And he says he always tried to instill strong character in his athletes.

"And we had that," says Marks. "It was such a great relationship with the young athletes that I had. It's quite an honor to put a finger print on somebody's life."

An Open House reception/celebration for Marks will be held at Swanson Stadium Sunday, June 29th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited.

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