DARLINGTON – Darlington has known for a long time what a special coach it has in Arnie Miehe. Now, it time for the nation to find out just how special Coach Miehe is to the sport of cross country.
Miehe was one of twenty-two high school coaches from across the country selected as 2015 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association, earning the award for boys’ cross country after leading his Redbirds in their fifth consecutive WIAA Division 3 state championship title last fall.
While the honor is bestowed upon Miehe for the 2014-15, it is also recognition for the past 34 years he has spent building a highly successful program at Darlington High School.
“It’s hard to get a handle on it,” said Miehe. “Being named state Coach of the Year, you go wow. Now, you’re going a little bit bigger. When you look at the whole situation, it’s mind blowing. It’s an incredible honor that’s for sure.”
Since taking over the Redbirds’ cross country program in 1982, Miehe has led his boys’ teams to a 2,403-368 overall record and has earned 17 conference championships, 19 team state appearances, four state runner-up finishes, and seven state championships.
Last season, his Redbirds posted a 124-11 record while picking up their eight consecutive SWAL title, their eighth consecutive sectional title and their fifth straight state title.
He has also coached his girls’ teams to a 2,039-695 record with 15 conference championships, 14 team state appearances, and one state runner-up finish.
Miehe was informed that he had been selected as the Boys’ Cross Country Coach of the Year for Wisconsin in October, and he completed a coach profile form detailing his coaching record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy.
To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.
After completing the form, Miehe sent it in to the NFHS and didn’t hear anything back so he assumed the worst.
“I figured no news is bad news, so I thought I didn’t make it,” admitted Miehe.
However, that was not the case. He had actually been named Sectional Coach of the Year for the Central Section 4 encompassing the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, and he was also selected as the National Coach of the Year by the NFHS Coaches Association.
Only he didn’t find out until this past weekend when he attended the 2016 Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association in Milwaukee.
During the clinic, WIAA assistant director Stephanie Hauser, whose duties include the administration and coordination for the sports of cross country, track and field, gymnastics, volleyball and softball, was introduced to the coaches.
After her introduction, Hauser asked if Miehe was in the audience and then asked him to stand up. With his peers looking on, Hauser informed him that he had been selected as the NFHS Coach of the Year.
Needless to say, he was stunned.
“It blew me away. It was neat because I was around all the people I coached with over my career. It made for a very special moment,” said Miehe, a 2005 inductee into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Since learning of the national award, Miehe has been reflecting on how all the people of the years have contributed to his success at Darlington and all the hours he personally has put in to coaching the Redbirds the past 34 years.
“What comes into my head are all the people who have been a part of my success here. The stuff we do would be impossible without all the parents helping out, without all the kids running the miles and without all the support I receive from the school, my assistant coaches and the community, so that I could run a top-notch program. It’s all very humbling,” Miehe stated.
While the good times and championship titles are always among his top coaching memories, he often thinks about the tough times as well. The years they could have done better but for one reason or another didn’t see the success that they should or the leaner years when the talent wasn’t so strong.
“As I drove home on Saturday, there was a lot of stuff that went through my head. I took a step back to think about all the ups and downs, and everything that has gone into it and all the people who helped contribute to it. It’s an endless number of people who have helped me out,” said Miehe. “It’s not just me doing it.”
He sat down over the weekend and figured he has coached over 600 athletes in his 34 years at a small, rural school in southwest Wisconsin, and those kids had come from more than 400 different families.
In a sport where even large schools around the state have trouble with participation numbers, Miehe makes his peers jealous by fielding boys’ and girls’ teams often consisting of 20 to 30 runners of all different levels of talent. The team spirit and camaraderie on his squads are second to none.
“I have tried to make a team that’s appealing to kids and one where they don’t feel intimidated participating on,” said Miehe. “It’s not just me doing it. It’s everyone involved with the team that does that. I’m appreciative of that.”
One of the key elements of his teams is the community service they perform not only throughout the cross country season but during the off-season as well, such as their weekly trips to the Lafayette Manor to spend time with senior citizens or their annual Run Across Wisconsin fund raiser which has raised over $25,000 over the past 15 years for Relay For Life in Lafayette County.
These are the things that make Coach Miehe the Coach of the Year every year in the hearts and minds of Darlington people. So, it’s about time people around the nation recognize what a special coach we have in Miehe.
“I’m having a hard time getting a handle on the whole thing. I’m very humbled by this,” he said.