MEDINA — Phil Brewer had just graduated from Bowling Green State University when he took a teaching job and began coaching cross country at his alma mater.
Little did he know when he began that he would help Medina’s girls program become one of the best in the state.
After 26 seasons of coaching, Brewer announced Monday that he will not return for the 2013 season so that he can spend more time with his family.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, because this has been a big part of my life,” Brewer said. “The timing was right though. My family has taken over a lot of my time and my wife is working fulltime again. Now I will be around more after school.”
Brewer, who has a son Nick and a daughter Elizabeth, took a Bees program that for years had less than 10 runners on the roster to one that averages 40 competitors or better each year, despite the rise of pay-to-participate fees.
Along with assistant coach Scott VanFleet, who has been with Brewer since the late 90s, the coach went from a fresh-faced college graduate to one of the most admired mentors in the area.
With the help of legendary county coaches Jim Demo and Todd Clark, along with working with current boys coach Milt Place, Brewer learned quickly on the job.
“I was sort of clueless when I started,” said Brewer, who ran on a pair of state-qualifying teams before graduating from Medina in 1982. “I was fortunate enough to run for a great coach in high school in Jim Valentine and have guys like Jim Demo and Todd Clark, who I always respected, that were very helpful in those first three to four years to show me the ropes.
“This county is loaded with great coaches like Milt, (Brunswick’s) Kerry Hunter and (former Wadsworth coach) John Martin. All are legendary coaches and I was able to bounce ideas off of them.”
During his two decades-plus of coaching, Brewer established a tradition that continues from the middle school on up.
During his tenure, the Bees have been to state as a team 10 times, won seven conference championships combined in the Pioneer Conference and Northeast Ohio Conference and has had four All-Ohio runners. Medina had a stretch in the early part of the last decade where it won five titles in seven seasons, which included a regional crown in 2001.
But Brewer, a 13-time Gazette Coach of the Year in the sport — was quick to point out that it was the athletes he had the opportunity to coach that made the experience worthwhile.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “I’ve always said that I’ve had the best coaching job at Medina and that’s because I always got the best kids in the building. If you’re able to go through the work that goes into cross country, you’re probably exceptional in other areas of life.
“It’s been a blast and I’ve been blessed to be around great athletes that had quite a bit of success.”
Brewer will continue to teach social studies and is helping the program with summer workouts and the transition and the school looks for a new coach. According to athletic director Jeff Harrison, the search has begun for a replacement and a new coach should be in place by mid-July.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.