Oct. 16, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
Kent Overbey is something of a legend in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
He taught humanities at Huron High School for 39 years, retiring in 2007. He was the men’s track and field coach from 1969 to 2009. He’s been the men’s cross country coach since 1985.
His wins have earned him many titles and awards: he was named the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2002, and he was admitted into the MITCA and Michigan High School Athletic Association halls of fame in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
His accolades come from his impressive record. As a track coach, his teams won 63 invitationals, 17 conference championships, 10 regional titles and earned 13 top ten state meet finishes. As a cross country coach, his teams won two conference titles, three regional championships, and earned eight top ten finishes at state.
Success isn’t the only reason why the Huron track will be renamed after him next spring. It’s the relationships he’s formed over the years.
Former students and colleagues of Overbey’s spoke on his behalf at the Oct. 9 Board of Education meeting, where trustees voted to approve the naming of the track.
Frank Tinney spoke first. The 2004 graduate was offered scholarships to several NCAA Division I schools. He opted to run for Princeton’s varsity track and cross country team for four years.
“While Kent’s achievements as a coach are both abundant and obvious, it’s the work he does in developing the individual that sets him apart,” Tinney said. “As an athlete under Kent, it was always stressed that ‘books were first.’
“He constantly reminded me that my athletic accomplishments were nothing without comparable performances in the classroom.”
Mike Hanlon, a graduate from the class of 2003, also spoke.
“He’s coached some of the best teams and the best runners in state history,” Hanlon said, motioning to Tinney. “But he’s also taken hopeless cases, and made them all-state runners too — like the guy who’s talking right now.
“And what isn’t so much in those record books is the number of students who were hopeless cases in the classroom that he’s taken to college and high school graduation.”
Overbey’s dedication is apparent in time he spends helping his students and team, Hanlon said.
“He’s there running morning practice at 6 a.m with bagels. He’s there on Saturday mornings for long runs with Dexter Bakery donuts. He takes injured runners to the pool and sits on the side of the pool while they do workouts if they’re hurt.
“Every day, after school, he would go around the school and take cans out of the trash cans. A lot of people thought he was the janitor for a while. He took big bags over to Kroger to get refunds for the cans and then he put that money back into the track program.”
Andy Campbell was one of Overbey’s first runners in 1969. “And 15 years later,” he said, choking up, “he was at my wedding.” Now Overbey coaches Campbell’s son.
When Overbey stepped up to the podium, he didn’t talk about his accomplishments. Instead, he spoke mostly of his pride in his athletes, colleagues and mentors.
“The truth is, that was all nice,” Overbey said, referring to the speeches earlier in the night, “but I never really did much. I had great people, great co-coaches and assistant coaches.
“I always had great individuals, starting all the way back in the Dark Ages with Andy Campbell.”
Later, Overbey added: “All of these people are a testament to themselves.”
Overbey’s modesty was apparent during his remarks, and especially at the end: “Thank you very much. This is a great honor,” he said as he began to walk away, motioning to all the supporters behind him. “And I really wondered who they were talking about.”