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Altiere steps down

John Peterson, Matt Peterson and Tony Altiere are all stepping down from the coaching staff of the Two Harbors track and field team. Altiere has been the head coach since 2001. Submitted photo.

Kyle Farris

Whether as a student-athlete who nearly missed his first race in seventh grade because he couldn’t find the starting line, or as a head coach who clings more tightly to the connections he’s made with kids than the championships and titles they’ve worked jointly to earn, Tony Altiere has made track and field a central piece of his life for more than 30 years.

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That’s what made his choice to step away from the sport -- he announced his resignation from head track and field coach at Two Harbors High School on Aug. 3 -- so difficult, he said.

“It was a tough decision … very emotional at times,” said Altiere, 44, whose first coaching job was at Marshall School in Duluth in 1993. “Anyone who knows me knows that this is not something I look at lightly.”

Altiere, a science teacher at Two Harbors who has doubled as the head track and field coach since the spring of 2001, said it’s time to devote more attention to his teaching. He’s going back to school to get his master’s degree and plans to bring the same zeal he has for coaching into the classroom.

“With my personality, I’m one of those people who would rather do a few things exceptionally well than a lot of things OK,” Altiere said. “I know my limitations enough, and I need to make sure I focus on teaching.

“I will greatly miss the interaction with the kids and the parents. I still have that in my classroom, but anyone who has been a coach (knows) it’s a little different.”

As of late last week, Altiere said he hadn’t spoken with any of his athletes or their parents.

“I’ve got a funny feeling as soon as school starts … I’m going to get a number of visits,” he said. “I’m sure I will help out here and there, probably not as much as people would like or are hoping. I want to focus on schooling, and I need to give that, with all fairness, the attention.”

Under Altiere, who came to Two Harbors in the fall of 1999, the program drew roughly 70 student-athletes each year and propelled three individuals to six state titles.

The success was a product of the program’s culture, according to Altiere, who said he was most concerned with helping his athletes grow, with the expectation that results would come naturally.

“Awards, titles, championships -- they’ll take care of themselves if all you focus on is individual and team improvement,” he said. “That’s alway something we stressed. You might not have been ready that day, but eventually you will.

“Some of my greatest memories I have are of the individual who might not be as talented. I love sitting back and watching their experiences. In the beginning of the season watching them and what they think they can handle versus what they can do at the end of the year.”

Altiere said he has no specific plans to remain involved with the program over the next few years, but he’s open to helping the new head coach, whether the school decides to hire from the outside or promote one of the assistant coaches.

“One thing I always told our athletes, the parents, everybody involved with our program is that it’s our program,” Altiere said. “We’re the current tenants. The program existed long before us, and hopefully, it will exist long after us. While we have it, we’re obligated to do the absolute best that we can.”

Already Altiere has been asked whether he plans to return to coaching, he said. A potential return in a few years might have to come as an assistant.

“It might look really different, but that’s OK,” he said. “There are a million ways to do the same thing.

“To say (I) could automatically coach with anyone, I think, would be false. It would depend on the individual. I want to make sure that whoever is doing it is doing it for the right reasons.”

Altiere’s resignation adds to a list of departures that includes Matt and John Peterson, two brothers who have coached under Altiere in recent years.

For Altiere, the transition away from coaching won’t be an easy one. But it’s one he said he has to make.

“I’ve been involved in track and field since I was in seventh grade -- for 30 years,” he said. “That’s not something you take away and say, ‘Forget it.’

“But now the tides have changed. It’s not that coaching doesn’t mean anything anymore and track doesn’t mean anything anymore. It always will. But I want the opportunity to do in the classroom what I’ve done coaching."