In a year without an outdoor track season, Clinton High School’s prestigious program picked up quite an award.
Head track coach Norm Deep Jr., who also coaches the school’s indoor and cross country teams, was chosen the National Federation of State High School Associations Coach of the Year for New York state. The pool of candidates encompasses all New York state high school coaches, not just in the Class B category which the Warriors compete.
Deep has led the school’s boys outdoor track program for 26 years since 1994; he has another four years’ involvement as a Clinton track athlete himself. While the award is given as the boys coach for the 2019-20 school year, Deep said it’s more a recognition of the entire three-sport running and throwing teams at Clinton for boys and girls.
“It’s really a program award,’’ said Deep, who lives in Waterville and also teaches at CCS. “It’s a recognition of the consistent strength of the program we’ve had for a number of years.’’
Unlike many other schools where the boys and girls track and cross country teams have separate coaches and programs, Deep is the head coach for both the boys and girls; this year, had there been an outdoor team, he had a team of about 110 athletes with 25 seniors.
At Clinton, that represents about 25 percent of the High School student body. “We run it like a collegiate program,’’ he said. “The runners, boys and girls, practice and push each other as do the throwers and jumpers.
“We’re a track family,’’ he said. “You look at the connections to Clinton in our program and you can see we’re consistently good because we have so many people involved for so long.’’
Deep graduated from Clinton in 1985 after four years as a thrower on the track team. He also played football and took his skills in both sports to Colgate University.
At Colgate Deep participated in track in the program led by Coach Art McKinnon; since McKinnon’s retirement as Colgate’s track and cross country coach in 2016, he’s been an assistant for his former student athlete at Clinton.
At Colgate Deep earned his undergraduate degree in education and history, then put in another year there for his master’s in education. Right out of college he served as a football and track coach at the University of Albany while teaching in Albany area schools.
He came home to Clinton after a couple of years and spent a year as assistant track coach under his high school coach, Tim Suppe. During his senior year at Colgate, Deep had volunteered as an assistant coach under Suppe, but the arrangement lasted just one season the second time around.
“After the first year Tim said why don’t you be head coach and I’ll be your assistant,’’ Deep said. “So in 1994 I took over the boys track and field program.’’
In the last quarter-century the boys teams have compiled a record of 275-40-1. This season the Warriors would have looked to add to their 56-dual meet win streak dating back to 2014.
Under Deep the boys have won 10 Section Three championships, 16 league championships and 74 multi-school invitational titles.
When he graduated from Clinton, Deep held the school record in the shot put. As head coach, he has coached four boys who broke that record.
“I have no problem with that whatsoever,’’ Deep said. “Those kids were helping us win.’’
Those boys outdoor track team numbers alone would garner attention for state recognition, but the girls outdoor track program boasts some impressive results also.
Deep took over as head coach of the girls outdoor team in 2013. Since then the team’s dual meet record is 76-1.
This season the girls would have put their 67-dual meet streak on the line. The lone loss came in 2013 to Adirondack.
The girls outdoor team has claimed six Section Three championships and six league titles, while also taking home first place in 31 multi-school invitationals under Deep.
In 1994 Deep started the indoor track program at Clinton which runs during the winter sports season. He’s been the sport’s only coach for boys and girls since founding it.
His teams have won a combined 33 league titles (18 boys, 15 girls) and seven sectional championships (four girls, three boys.)
Four years ago Deep took over the other running program at Clinton when he was appointed coach of the boys and girls cross country teams.
In those four seasons the girls have won the league each time and the sectional title twice, with the boys winning the league three years.
Deep attributes some of Clinton’s success to being one of the first to form an indoor track and field team. “It’s a second season,’’ he said.
He helped coordinate the formation of the Mohawk Valley Indoor Track Organization in 2009 with meets back at his college fieldhouse at Colgate. After the organization grew to 27 schools and outgrew Colgate, meets have since moved to Utica College’s Hutton Dome.
Deep has been coordinator of that organization for the last 11 years, along with being the Section Three boys track assistant chairman for the last 18 and indoor assistant chairman for 11 years. He’s been the Section Three Class B outdoor boys chairman for the past 20 years, league chairman for 25 years and the liaison for boys and girls track committees for nine years.
He’s also the schedule coordinator for the Center State Conference’s cross country and track teams.
Deep stresses that none of this is possible - the overwhelmingly winning records, juggling a sport a season or serving on committees - without a dedicated group of assistants. He’s most proud of assistants such as Sam Catterson and Stacy Davignon, who he coached at Clinton, then they returned to help out others. Both are also coaches now.
Zach Jones, who coaches varsity football at Clinton, is a former track athlete at Camden who helps on the CCS team, as does his brother, Kevin. Former coaches Angelo Gaetano, Lori Hunt and Matt Bashant are also among the 27 assistants Deep has relied on over the years.
“When I say we run it like a collegiate program it means I identify outstanding assistants who are experts in their particular area of track and field,’’ Deep said. “They set a great example for the kids at practices and in their own accomplishments.’’
In looking at the Clinton track and field program, the one statistic that best defines its success isn’t in records set or championships won while wearing a Warriors uniform.
It’s this: Under Deep’s leadership, every year since 1994 Clinton has had at least one track athlete go on to compete in college; since 1994 73 Clinton students have competed as track athletes in college.
For some of them, that could mean almost a dozen years of participating in the sport. Deep continues the Friday Fun Runs tradition at Clinton Elementary School, allowing the younger kids to compete in runs around the track.
“In track everyone’s a starter,’’ Deep said. “Everyone gets to play. No one sits the bench or only gets in when the starter needs a break.
“In track the ones who have the state level talent help the others get better,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of respect in this sport for someone who is faster, higher or can throw farther than you can.’’
While proud of being chosen for the award and the recognition it shines on the Clinton program, Deep said it also underscores what was lost without a season this year. “The seniors can never get this time back,’’ he said. “They didn’t get one more time to see what they could do. It’s a lost year. I want them to know I dedicate this award to them, the seniors of the Class of 2020.’’
According to the national organization that honored Deep, about 850 coaches around the country are chosen for recognition representing all boys and girls high school sports. While his name is on the award, Deep said he owes that to every Clinton athlete who ever participated on one of his teams.
“Someone else had to run, jump, throw to get those wins,’’ Deep said. “Every kid whoever was on a team with me should feel they helped me get this.’’