Rohe Track Era All About Us!


 

Norm Witek:

Norm Witek worked for 47 years as a professor and coach at Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina.

"I started as an instructor and head track/cross country coach," he says, "We won Brevard College's first national title, in the marathon, followed by four straight national cross country championships beginning in 1982. I spent eight years as dean of students. Then, in 1993, I returned to the classroom as a professor of exercise science, in charge of physical education licensure and a coaching minor."

Witek ran track at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois, and was recruited by Coach Chuck Rohe. He ended up getting a full scholarship to UT and ran the 880 yard dash during the 1964-1967 SEC indoor and outdoor championship seasons.

"I have six brothers and sisters, and I was the first to attend college. It was a wonderful opportunity for me. I never planned to go to college but UT gave me the opportunity to go to school and run. It gave me a chance to get my education, which I would have never done otherwise. It also gave me a chance to fulfill my career goals, one of which was to be a college coach, and I was able to get a job at Brevard College with help from Coach Rohe and the contacts he had."

"After graduating with a MS from Tennessee in1968, Coach Rohe wanted to know if I would be interested in trading places with Thad Talley who was the Track & Cross Country Coach at Brevard College. Thad came to Tennessee as a graduate assistant under Coach Rohe while I took the coaching job at Brevard. I will always appreciate the opportunities that Coach Rohe gave me which has lead me to such a successful career."

Norm's coaching achievements at Brevard College from 1967 to 1985 included the following:

  • 116 All Americans
  • 3 Olympians
  • 3 National Junior College XC Champions
  • 1 NJCAA Marathon Championship 1982 (First National Championship at BC)
  • 4 Straight National Cross Country Championships 1982-1985
  • 3 Time National Coach of the Year
  • First African American to run a 4:00 mile in 1971 at the Dream Mile
  • Inducted into NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1990
  • Inducted into Brevard College Hall of Fame in 2004
  • Inducted into Lyons Township High School Hall of Fame
  • Director of the Brevard Distance Runners Camp (over 1,000 campers, largest US running camp
  • Master Competition at 52 years old in 1997-finished runner up in National Masters indoor track championships (Boston, MA) in the 400 meters with a time of 54.80. Also finished 4th in 200 with a time of 25.33.

Witek is the only nonprofessional athlete to have an athletic shoe named after him by a major shoe company. In 2004 the Adidas World Headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, named a women's athletic shoe "Witek." Says Norm, "One of my runners at Brevard, Mikal Peveto, worked as the senior product manager for Adidas. He developed and marketed running shoes worldwide. Mikal and five vice presidents came to my running camp for a retreat and to develop new technology for a women's running shoe. They named the shoe "Brevard." After four or five years they wanted to retool the shoe and honor my coaching career. Though the "Witek" women's running shoe was only available in Europe, I was able get a pair when I visited my son in Germany.

Norm is married to Nancy Williamson. They have three sons, one daughter, and three grandchildren. About retirement, he had this to say: "I never read any of the classics when I was young, so I'm working on a list of "100 books to read in your lifetime" that gives you the equivalent of a liberal arts education. I've read eight so far. We also plan to travel, and I am cleaning out my basement to put up my collection of 1954–57 American Flyer Trains.