Model coach retires, quietly

Track and field: Perry Hall's Jerry Martin leaves after 38 Baltimore county titles in 31 years, making him a coach who will be remembered, even if he feared a party.

June 03, 1999|By Todd Karpovich | Todd Karpovich,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When Jerry Martin decided he would retire after this spring's track season, he wanted to go out quietly rather than attract the attention that accompanies 31 years on the job.

The long-time Perry Hall coach, 57, said he decided to call it quits so he could spend more time with his wife and take on a full-time job at the Hess Running Center in Towson.

Having experienced all of the highs and lows of a high school coach, he said, he was ready for some of life's new challenges.

But walking away from a career that included 38 indoor and outdoor county championships is tough for a man who spent the majority of his life teaching kids not only how to compete in track but also in life.

Martin is a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he said he was happy not to have any type of formal farewell party.

"I know it would have been too emotional for me," Martin said. "I didn't want to deal with it. My wife is glad we'll have some time together."

Martin's coaching career began at Dundalk High School in 1968, the same year he graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park. During the late 1960s and into the mid-1970s, Bob Dean's Dulaney teams were Baltimore County's perennial power, and Martin knew that knocking off the Lions would take extra effort.

"Bob really set the standard for high school track," Martin said. "When I first competed against him, I knew I was going to have to study the sport and really get to know it."

Martin called his crowning achievement the first time Dundalk beat Dulaney in the county relays in 1972.

"It was the first time anyone put a dent in Dulaney's armor," Martin said.

But as much as Martin loved Dundalk, he decided to leave in 1974 to build up the program at Perry Hall, then a new school. At the time, track wasn't considered as important as football and basketball at the school, although that changed as Martin slowly molded the program.

In 1978, Martin's teams won his first indoor and outdoor county championships at Perry Hall, with 19 more to follow. He also built the school's cross country teams to rank among the state's best, capturing 12 straight county titles from 1986 to 1997.

Martin's career dual-meet record in cross country, outdoor and indoor track is 499-103 -- a remarkable .829 winning percentage.

Throughout his years in the high-school ranks, Martin became a model for younger coaches, and some believe his legacy will be remembered for years to come.

"I've known him for 21 years, and he really has been one of the deans of coaching," said Pikesville cross-country coach John Massar. "I have always been very fond of his approach. He expects kids to work hard and do well in school. As an educator, I find that admirable."

Said Pat Sokoloski, who coached track with Martin at Perry Hall for 12 years: "He takes these skinny ninth graders [who] wouldn't make many other teams and sees potential. He tells those kids to stick with him, and by the time they're juniors and seniors, they are great athletes. I've learned more about coaching from him than anybody I have ever been with."

Coaches aren't the only ones influenced by Martin's drive. Many of his former runners also credit him with leaving a lasting impression.

Kris Jost was the fourth person in her family to run for Martin after competing in both track and cross country at Perry Hall from 1993-1995. Jost's father, Steve; mother, Cathy; and brother, Dan, all ran for Martin at the school.

"Both of my parents said he knows his stuff and to listen to him," said Kris Jost, who just graduated from Villanova University, where she also ran track and cross country. "He expects a lot from you, because he is a good judge of character and knows that you will work hard."

Even though Martin is old enough to have coached some of his athletes' parents, track has never lost its luster for him.

"I never had a day in coaching that was the same as before," Martin said. "Basically, every day you are designing 14 different workouts. How can you get bored with that?"

To say that Martin will be missed is an understatement, his peers said. Some said Martin doesn't fully recognize what he has meant to Baltimore County track.

"Pound for pound, he is the best," said Al Miller, who was Perry Hall's athletic director from 1966 until retiring last year. "There isn't a harder working coach in any sports. I'd hate to be the guy to replace him."

Pub Date: 6/03/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.