After 35 years in the district, head cross country coach Mark Chipman retires

Chipman has coached four sports during his tenure, most notably cross country

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By Joe McClain

Head cross country coach Mark Chipman decides to retire after leading the cross country team to statewide success and teaching in the district for 35 years.

Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

After spending countless hours on fall weekends and every day after school, head cross country coach Mark Chipman is moving on to a new chapter in his life: retirement.

Chipman has coached in the district since 1982, including football, basketball, track and field and most recently, cross country. During his tenure as head cross country coach at Mill Valley, beginning in 2000, the girls team placed third in both 2013 and 2016 and the boys team placed third in 2013 and second in 2016. He coached Academic All-State runners nine times — 2016 graduated seniors Amber Akin and Derek Meeks both earned the honor twice — won 17 Kaw Valley League championships and took 22 teams to state.

Chipman said he first became interested in cross country after running in both high school and college. After college, he taught in western Kansas shortly before moving to eastern Kansas for the opportunity and because “there’s probably a little more social life available.”

Both Chipman and his wife have taught in the district, but his wife retired three years ago from teaching elementary school. Originally, they planned to retire at the same time, but according to Chipman right now felt like the right time.

“It was a tough choice,” Chipman said. “We both just thought this was the time to do it. This just gives us a chance to do some things on Saturdays and on fall weekdays and weekends. We’re going to travel quite a bit. But it was just time.”

But Chipman did coach for 35 years, mostly due to the fact that he loved watching the kids that he coached mature and grow up before his very eyes.

“I just enjoyed it so much being able to make a difference in their lives and see them succeed,” Chipman said. “To see them graduate from high school and see them go on to college and go on to be successful in their lives [was special].”

One of those kids that he coached and watched succeed was Jay Matlack, who graduated in 2004 Matlack holds the school 5k record and also later coached in 2013. Something that stuck with Matlack was Chipman’s demeanor.

“He was always the calm in the storm for me,” Matlack said via email. “When the race got crazy and I thought I might crash, it was always his calming words and presence that made me realize all is OK and keep putting that foot in front of the other. I also am not sure I ever remember [Chipman] saying something that wasn’t positive. He didn’t stress about yesterday’s workout or race but only what can be done about the next one.”

I just enjoyed it so much being able to make a difference in their lives and see them succeed. To see them graduate from high school and see them go on to college and go on to be successful in their lives [was special].”

— Head cross country coach Mark Chipman

Senior Adam Gillette, who has ran for Chipman his entire high school career, also was impacted by Chipman’s coaching. According to Gillette, Chipman taught him lessons that are applicable to life outside of running.

“He impacted me personally by helping me realize that cross country is something greater than just running and it will help me throughout my life,” Gillette said. “The lessons that the sport has taught me and Coach Chipman has taught me about perseverance and believing in yourself [meant so much].”

Matlack agrees with this sentiment, as both him and his family members use Chipman’s teachings incorporated in their everyday life.

“‘Put your head down and go’ [is] a quote my family and I still say on a regular basis,” Matlack said. “It taught me to put nerves, uncertainty, doubt, fear aside and just do the work; everything else will fall where it should. He impacted me in high school and continues to in my daily life through lessons he taught.”

That connection with his runners was Chipman’s goal during his days as a head coach, ever since he started coaching at De Soto with a team of six runners. Now, the cross country team has expanded to almost 70 runners. Even when the sport he coached wasn’t the most popular for athletes, he still enjoyed the connection with his team.

“I started coaching cross country when maybe running wasn’t the thing to do,” Chipman said. “But I think the other kids in the school saw the success we had, the fun we had and the camaraderie we developed with the pasta dinners idea. That contributed to the growth.”

Gillette believes that Chipman best represented the school through his coaching style and what he modeled himself.

“He just added the positivity and the sportsmanship and standing for Mill Valley and representing our school in a positive way,” Gillette said. “He was very respected by his peers and other coaches and he really brought a good name to Mill Valley cross country.”

Now that Chipman is moving on, Matlack will always remember how much Chipman’s coaching affected his life and will continue to leave an imprint on the school and the program.

“This team will continue to have wonderful leadership due to the foundation he built, as they continue to build a renowned program,” Matlack said. “Every success will be tied to Coach Chipman in one way or another. Chipman is and will forever be one of the most influential and instrumental people in my life, I thank him for his leadership, mentorship and friendship.”  

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