Friday, April 17, 2015

Warren Mitchell

By Bert Borgmann, Colorado High School Activities Association

He’s been called a coaching icon. He’s been called a coaching legend.

Whatever words are used to describe Warren Mitchell, the operative one is “coach.” For 58 1/2 years, he coached Colorado high school athletes in five sports. And, he did it with love, a sense of community and accomplishment.

Mitchell, or “Mitch” as he’s called by a myriad of his colleagues, athletes and community members, passed away November 14, 2014, shortly after learning he would be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He told friends that his greatest worry was what to say in his acceptance speech tonight.

Now, he will simply have to let his legacy speak for him.

A graduate of Denver West High School, Mitchell attended Colorado State College of Education (now UNC), graduating in December 1951 after running track for four years and playing a season of football.

He landed at Eads High School in January of 1952 to teach and coach boys’ basketball which he did for a year and a half.  He compiled a 25-7 record before moving on to Limon High School in the fall of 1953, and it was in Limon where he settled in for the next 57 years.

He started out as the school’s basketball and baseball coach, but moved into coaching track in 1955 and stayed until 2010.  He also had a stint as the school’s football head coach for nine seasons and came out of retirement to serve as Limon’s athletic director for 2 years (1999-2001).  Mitch’s last 2 years in Limon, he also was the co-head cross country coach.  What transpired from his coaching created the descriptions of “icon” and “legend.”

Mitchell Family at induction banquet.
As the Limon boys’ basketball coach, he compiled a 25-year record of 374-155 (.707) and four state championships.  With his Eads mark, he was 399-162 (.711) and 17-4 in state playoffs.

In nine years as the Badgers’ head football coach, Mitch compiled a 64-35 record.  His 1979 team won the state title and in 1986 were runners-up.  Limon qualified for the playoffs seven of his nine seasons.  Before he became head coach, he was an assistant for 26 years, and the team won 11 state championships.

The family of Warren Mitchell proudly attend induction ceremony to honor Mitch.
However, it was in boys’ track where Mitch and his teams made their mark. They won 12 state team championships, finished second four times and had 73 individual (57) or relay (16) state champions, including setting 15 state records, coaching 56 seasons, including 22 after he retired from teaching in 1988.  As a head coach, his teams won 17 state team titles and were runners-up five times.

Four sports wasn’t enough for Mitch;  he even served as Limon’s co-head boys’ & girls’ cross country coach for two seasons at the age of 82.  This was the first time Mitch coached girls, and they qualified for state as a team in 2008, plus an individual in 2009.

Mitchell is a member of five halls of fame, including the CHSAA Hall of Fame, National High School Hall of Fame and National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  In 2001, Limon built and dedicated the school’s auxiliary gym in his honor, the Warren Mitchell Events Center.

Mitch was national track coach of the year twice, 2007 & 2008, and regional COY four times.  He was Colorado’s track COY eight times and football COY once. He was the first coach to receive both the 50- and 55-year awards from the Colorado High School Coaches Association.  He held every office possible in the CHSCA and served on numerous CHSAA and school committees.

He may not get to give his acceptance speech, but his legacy speaks volumes.

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