By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
In two decades under head coach Tom Mittman the City High cross country team put together some impressive numbers.
20 consecutive trips to state, five state titles, eight runner-up performances and 15 top-three finishes.
The numbers are what Mittman, who announced he was stepping down as head coach on Wednesday, is most proud of from his tenure leading the City High program.
Not the number of state or conference titles but the number of girls that joined the City High cross country program under his watch.
“I think the thing I’m most proud of what we were able to do is create an environment that encourages participation and embraces each athlete as an important part of the team,” Mittman said. “It’s a great sport, there is no bench the slower you are the more playing time you get and it’s a sport where kids can see their improvement.”
City High was a perennial state contender when Mittman took over in 1997 having won five titles from 1990 to 1995.
Mittman expanded on that success by more than doubling the number of girls on the roster from around 30 when he took the job to more than 70 in his final season las fall.
“Depth is important and the few years that we struggled are the years that we didn’t have a really strong JV,” Mittman said. “Thankfully most years we have had a very strong JV and fresh/soph team and that has made our varsity better. It’s an important part of the program and we are proud of it.”
Mittman led City High to the Class 3A title in 1999 and won 4A titles in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
City High didn’t finish outside the top two at state in his first decade as head coach and didn’t have a state finish of lower than third in his first 14 seasons leading the program.
The Little Hawks returned to the top three for the first time since 2010 last season and return five of their top seven runners from that team next season.
“The team is in good standing,” Mittman said. “We have a good nucleus coming back and we have a nice freshman class coming in. It takes a lot of energy and my energy has waned just a little bit but enough that I feel the kids deserve the program that we have created to stay energetic and have a person at the head that is capable of meeting all those demands.”
The 64-year old Mittman said there were several factors that went into his decision to step away from his head coaching duties including the health of his mother and his desire to spend time with his grandchildren.
“It was a very hard decision and I didn’t make it lightly,” Mittman said. “There were several factors.”
Mittman, who was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2015 plans to stay close to the program as an assistant or volunteer coach.
He told team members on Wednesday they weren’t done hearing his voice just yet.
“I’m fortunate to be in remission and doing well but that could always change and I feel as a volunteer assistant I will be able to leave without feeling guilty if those things arise,” Mittman said.