The Behnke Legend


The Mirror reporter

For the past 40 years, the Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) cross country team has had one of the best coaches in the nation, Donn Behnke.

Behnke graduated from Milwaukee Marshall High School in 1971.  He was on their 1970 state championship cross country team.

He attended The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and ran on their cross country team.  In his college career, he qualified for Nationals in the 10,000-meter race.

Behnke won the National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year award in 2001.

Behnke has some astounding statistics as the coach at SPASH.  In his 40 years of coaching, all 40 of his varsity teams have won conference.  Of the 40 JV teams he has had, 39 of them have won conference.

Thirty-eight of Behnke’s teams have made it to the state cross country meet at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.

He has brought home seven silver trophies and 10 gold trophies.

Coach Behnke, or Donn as most of his athletes call him, is the kind of coach you want.

You can ask Donn who ran what time at a specific race and he will tell you what their time was.  It doesn’t matter if the race was yesterday, or 30 years ago.  He could even tell you what the weather was like on that day.

No matter the kind of race you had, you will find him with his arm around you.  Even if you know you had a bad race, he will still tell you “that was not your best race,” but that’s Donn.

When you have a good race, he will tell you “great race! Keep working hard.”  If you have an outstanding race, he will hoist you up with excitement.

I think Donn gets more excited for races than his athletes do.  It’s awesome how he has been around the sport for so long and still has the same enthusiasm about it as he did when he was younger.

Donn is a very emotional person.  There are times that he has teared up talking about many of his athletes.  He shows his softer side by showing how much he cares about this sport and his athletes.

Behnke has recently written a book.  It is called “The Animal Keepers.”  It is a book about the SPASH cross country team’s 1985 season.  It is about a kid who was less fortunate than most and how he brought him on the team.  Behnke helped him a lot along the way.

Donn has taught many lessons to his athletes that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  His athletes have much gratitude for all of the good laughs and the good coaching he has given them.