Pioneer's Track Stars
The Sleeman-Westfield dynasty
by Chris Berggren
From the November, 2010 issue
"Every year is my last year," Don Sleeman jokes.
Sleeman began coaching Pioneer High's cross-country team in 1968 and added the track program in 1974. In more than four decades, his teams have won six state championships, and more than one hundred boys have earned all-state honors. And Sleeman's office-mate, Bryan Westfield, has an equally impressive record: since taking over the girls' track and cross-country teams in 1979, Westfield's won twenty state championships and also coached more than a hundred all-state athletes.
"We both have a very demanding outlook about how to prepare young athletes to have success," Sleeman says. "We sometimes differ in methodology, but the underlying premise is very similar."
According to Westfield, their success stems from getting kids and families to buy into the mind-set that running and competing are going to be an important part of their lives--and then to follow through with that commitment.
"Both men built programs where excellence was the expectation," says Chip Hadler, who ran for Sleeman from 1972 to 1974 and whose daughter, Carrie, ran for Westfield from 1998 to 2000. "Once established, it becomes the legacy for the program. Younger athletes coming up do their best to carry on what came before."
This past February the track at Pioneer became the Westfield-Sleeman Track. Sleeman says it's not so much an honor for them as an affirmation of the outstanding young athletes who have run at Pioneer over the years. "It's easy to talk the talk, but they were more than willing to walk the walk," he says.
Pioneer athletic director Lorin Cartwright says the next step is to raise the funds to install a brick-and-limestone sign beside the oval. The hope is to have the sign in place before either coach retires. Though Sleeman has talked about it for years, and Westfield has even posted his position twice, both have yet to hang up their spikes.
One factor keeping them working may be those high expectations. Says Westfield: "We don't want to walk away and have everything fall apart."
[Originally published in November, 2010.]