As the only head track and field coach Lynnwood High has ever had, Lewis has guided over 30 individual state champions.
It won’t surprise anyone that a track coach walks at a brisk pace.
But it’s not just the track where Duane Lewis is known for traveling rather quickly. For years, the longtime Lynnwood track and field coach could be seen roaming the halls at Lynnwood High School with a piece of paper that listed the day’s tasks.
Lewis retired from teaching history in 2002 but was still visible around the school. Lewis has coached track and field since the original LHS opened in 1971 and could often be seen checking on his athletes’ grades or scouting a physical education class for new students to join his program. But after 46 years leading the Royals’ program — and 51 years of coaching overall — the only track and field coach Lynnwood High School has ever known is calling it a career.
“It’s time that some younger people get the opportunity to put up with some of the stuff that I’ve had to put up with,” Lewis said with a laugh. “ … I started at the old Lynnwood High School when it was brand new. I outlived that one and figured I put a pretty good run on the new high school.”
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Lewis, who was inducted into the Washington State Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009, has coached the boys program since 1971 and the girls program since 1976. Under his tutelage, the boys team has won nine WesCo championships, eight district championships and a state title in 1994. The girls program has enjoyed similar success, with seven league titles, seven district championships and two state championships, in 1991 and 2016.
He’s had more than 30 individual state champions, including Harris Cutuk, who won the discus on Saturday at the state meet to send Lewis out with one last state champ.
On Wednesday night, the Club Northwest All-Comers Track and Field Meet turned into a celebration of Lewis, with over 100 former Lynnwood athletes joining their high-school coach for a “Lewis Lap” around the track at Shoreline Stadium. “He’s a legend,” said Lynnwood athletic director Rob McMains. “I think everybody knows who coach Lewis is, whether you run track or not, because he’s always around the school.”
Lewis is known for his passion and ability to get the most out of his athletes, as well as being an incredible storyteller. Stephanie Tastad, an assistant track coach at Lynnwood, ran for Lewis and helped lead the Royals’ girls to a state title in 1991.
“One of the coolest things of being on the coaching side of it with him is seeing the way he really cares about the kids,” Tastad said. “He wants to see them succeed so much. He’s got a big heart and just really cares about the kids.”
Former Lynnwood standout Mikayla Pivec, who just completed her freshman year playing basketball at Oregon State, was key in helping the Royals win another girls team title last year. She said the team really wanted to get that title for its coach.
“One of the things that separates him is his passion and how much he invests into every athlete there,” Pivec said. “He’s like a grandfather figure. He has this great combination where he knows when to be direct with somebody and when to crack a joke to get a smile.”
Several of the athletes Lewis has coached have gone on to become track and field coaches themselves, including Jeff Page (Lake Stevens), Eric Hruschka (Jackson) and Tony Perkins (Meadowdale).
From 1984 to 1998, Page’s Lake Stevens teams and Lynnwood had some epic track and field battles. Page estimates the Vikings and Royals accounted for “26 or 27” of the 30 boys and girls district titles over those years.
But when Lewis’ Lynnwood teams had down years in the early 2000s, Page still saw Lewis coaching the kids up.
“He still was so enthusiastic and could get so excited about the accomplishments of his kids,” Page said, “even though they weren’t (as strong) as before.”
The way Lewis recruited athletes to the Royals’ program mirrored the way he got into the sport in high school.
During his junior year at Shoreline High School, Lewis returned from participating in a wrestling meet and found himself watching a track practice. A coach saw Lewis in the stands and challenged him to come down for a race.
“I ran the 400 in my wrestling shoes,” Lewis said. “As I finished that first time trial and fell on my face, it didn’t dawn on me at that time that close to 60 years later I’d still be attached to running across a track and turning left.”
When Pivec is approached by fellow Lynnwood alumni she asks them if they were on the track and field team to spark a connection. If they say yes, Pivec knows they had a mutual coach.
“He’ll be missed,” said Pivec, who is among a group of former Royals athletes trying to get the track at Lynnwood High School named in Lewis’s honor. “Not just in the track and field world but the whole sports community for all he’s done. It’s a huge loss. He’ll be forever remembered for inspiring lots of people and changing lives. He’s a positive role model for so many young high schoolers.”
Page has almost 40 years of coaching experience himself and is mulling retirement in the next year or so but decided he couldn’t hang up his clipboard before Lewis did.
“I’m probably retiring around the end of next year and one of the things that I was starting to wonder was, ‘Am I going to retire before my high-school coach stops coaching?’” Page said. “He just kept going.”
Lewis remembers his star athletes through the years. From runner Scott Hall and discus thrower Ben Lindsey, to Tastad, to recent stars Pivec and Jordyn Edwards. All elicit fond memories for Lewis, but it isn’t just the star athletes that come to mind.
“Maybe someone who didn’t get to state,” Lewis said, “but that goes away with the respect for the sport and maybe some things in his character are strengthened by the opportunity they had to perform.”
How many athletes like that does he have?
“My battery on my phone won’t last that long,” Lewis said.
Lewis still has to wrap up a few end-of-season tasks before he’s officially done, including cleaning out several T-shirts from past state track and field meets.
“He kept every shirt ever made for an athlete and comes out in practice wearing one sometimes,” Tastad said. “He’s remained the same size. I think his hair’s the only thing that changed in the last 50 years.”
Now, instead of roaming the hallways at Lynnwood, Lewis hopes to spend some time with his wife and 12 grandchildren. He hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching as an assistant if he “found a job where I could actually coach and not push paper all day.”
Tastad, for one, still expects to see Lewis around once or twice next spring.
“I’m sure we’ll still see him,” Tastad said. “I’m sure he’ll still stop in a time or two and make sure we’re handling his program well. He’s one of those main fixtures you expect to have there all the time. That guy knows more about track and field coaching than anyone I’ve ever met.”