Roughly 1,200 student-athletes have gone through the Waconia cross country program in the last 22 years, all under head coach Clark Machtemes.
Now after two decades, countless meet wins, conference championships, section titles, and state entries, “Machto” (as he’s known to his runners) is stepping down from his role.
As a high school sophomore in the 1970s, Machtemes ran in a struggling Waconia cross country program, a sport that was dropped the following season due to lack of numbers.
In the late 1980s, when the girls’ tennis team was dropped for the same reason, the school district searched for another alternative. Machtemes, who coached junior high volleyball at the time, was approached by then-Activities Director Wayne Mortenson asking if he would like to restart cross country.
With no available funding from the district, the Waconia Booster Club offered to fund the program for the first two seasons, but only if it was successful.
The first season of the new WHS cross country team began in the fall of 1990. Only 20 runners from grades 7-12 came out for the team, many hailing from the dissolved girls’ tennis team.
“Distance running wasn’t really a big deal in Waconia at the time,” Machtemes said.
But that first season, Waconia runner Julie Ploecher not only qualified for state, but went on to finish eighth in Class A.
“That was huge,” Machtemes said.
As the years continued, team numbers grew and Machtemes consistently coached at least one individual to the state meet each season …
Read the rest of the story in the Feb. 21 Waconia Patriot.