Feb. 3, 2012
By Ken McMillan, Times Herald-Record
Jerry Quiller fell into track and field almost by accident and went on to establish a coaching legacy that reached far beyond the mountains of Colorado and granite walls of West Point.
He tutored dozens of all-Americans and produced a handful of Olympians on his watch at the University of Colorado and at Army. He coached United States teams at international events, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His lasting image, though, will be his kindness, positive attitude and dedication to his family.
Quiller died Thursday morning in Colorado at the age of 69. He had been battling cancer for the past five years, prompting his retirement as head cross country and track and field coach for Army in June 2008 after 13 seasons. He leaves behind his wife, Sandy, and three boys, Ryan, Rory and Robb.
"It's a sad day for the Army track family,'' coach Troy Engle said.
Engle served as an assistant in Quiller's first year at West Point, following 14 years at Colorado. He was amazed at how Quiller made the adjustment between the disparate worlds of free-spirited Boulder and strait-laced West Point.
"He was the most-likable and good-hearted person that you would meet in any profession, not just the sport of track and field,'' said Engle, who took over for Quiller at Army in 2008.
"He was the epitome of everything a college coach wants to achieve: developing national-calibre athletes, all-Americans, coaching international teams, being on the Olympic staff,'' said Joe Rogers, an Army assistant coach since 2000. "He had done everything you could as a coach and devoted his life to it and the kids. He was always a man who thought of others. He had a great heart and cared about the kids an awful lot. He is just one of those people who was real special.''
A moment of silence will be held prior to the Army-Navy indoor track meet on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. There will be a memorial service in Boulder on Feb. 11.
During a 38-year career, Quiller coached 48 all-Americans and future Olympians Adam Goucher and Alan Culpepper from Colorado and Dan Browne and Anita Allen from West Point.
"He was like a breath of fresh air,'' said Browne, a 1997 West Point grad who competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics. "His amazing positive attitude and coaching were the main reason for my success the final two years at West Point. He taught me what it took to compete with the best. I am thankful beyond measure for his guidance and wisdom. ... I miss him already.''
David Weart attended James I. O'Neill High School with Rory Quiller and ran for Jerry Quiller at West Point.
"He was like a second father figure,'' Weart said. "I am a better person for knowing him. He brought out the best in people and had an optimistic view on life. No matter what was going on in his life, he always wanted to lift up your spirits.''
Marist track coach Pete Colaizzo said his first meeting with Quiller, at the IC4A cross country championships in Boston, was unforgettable.
"He sees Marist, he sees me and says, 'How you doing, partner? You are our neighbors in the Hudson Valley,''' Colaizzo recalled. "Here is this legendary coach and I am some young coach at Marist. He comes up to me and practically bear hugs me. That was Q. He was always like that. I loved him for it.''
Even with years of coaching in his background, Quiller - who was pressed into coaching a Junior Olympic track team as a teenager by his younger brothers - was open to learning new things and seeking tips from coaches he admired.
"Even though he was an Olympic coach,'' Colaizzo said, "he would ask me, 'How is your team doing? How do you train your guys?' I am like, 'Are you kidding me?' That's like Ted Williams asking a bat boy for hitting advice.''
As Army head coach, Quiller was instrumental in making sure the local high school track teams were able to secure home dates at West Point's Gillis Fieldhouse when it looked like it might not happen, said former Warwick coach Tim St. Lawrence.
"He was all about the young kids,'' St. Lawrence said. "He was about teaching life. He was much more than a track coach. West Point was lucky to have him.''