Back in 2011, Newtson first started coaching because of the lack of coaches in small towns like Helix and Athena, and he also had a young son named Gavin who was currently playing football and had a desire to play other sports. “There was a lack of coaches for little kids,” said Newtson.
He wanted his boy to get a chance to play and do all the sports he wanted, so Newtson started out with assistant coaching on little league basketball teams and assisting on the Helix track team. Little did Coach Newtson know, he would be creating a long lasting program that many kids will continue to participate in.
Newtson started the cross country program by making it fun and encouraging kids who were not necessarily runners to come out and give it a chance. Newtson made it a high priority to have open communication with his athletes, “I always felt like he had my back. No matter if it was sports, personal, or just emotional. He always supported me in everything I did. He always made it so that if I wanted to do something I could do it. One time I told him I wanted to run from Helix to Athena and he made it happen,” said Senior cross country Captain Kaylee Cope.
Another way that Newtson attracted and kept his athletes was by taking them out on various trips. One of the trips that he took them on was their yearly boating trip to Asotin; however this year it was held in Boardman for lack of actually having a reason to go to Asotin. In addition to the camping trips they took to Asotin, they also had seasonal meets there. “Those trips are some I’ll never forget,” said Cope.
During these yearly trips, the team was able to take part in various activities such as boating, tubing, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, running, cooking dinner, talking around the campfire, and sharing stories.
The future of the Helix Cross country program is uncertain: however, we know that if the program does die, it will be eternally missed. Cope says, “ Sometimes programs die...it would suck to come back here in 20 years with my kids and there not be a program.”
One reason that programs die is because coaches retire as they get older and the current athletes don’t continue because of lack of leadership. Another could simply be lack of interest, as so many other programs before have faced.
The school seems very sure that someone will, in fact, continue the program. However, even if the program continues, former coach Jeff Newtson will be forever missed.