Bill Sumner honored as CdM track who will be named after longtime Sea Kings coach
After an outpouring of support to recognize Bill Sumner, the new track at Corona del Mar High School — where he coached for five decades — will be named after him.
The Newport-Mesa Unified School District School Board voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday night to name the school after the decorated coach, prompting applause from those who came to see Sumner honored.
Sumner, who is in his 39th season coaching the school’s cross country and track and field programs, was surrounded by a dozen fans, including former runners from multiple generations.
“Coach Sumner’s ability to make all of his athletes feel important can change teenage lives, and it was mine,” Ruth Kobayashi said ahead of the vote. “There is no one who better embodies the values of our District, the hopes and dreams of our athletes and the inspiration of an entire community than Coach Bill Sumner. Coach Sumner’s name on this track will serve as a reminder of those values, hopes and inspiration for generations to come.
The legendary trainer stood up – nothing new for someone often seen competing in community running events with his Cal Coast Track Club – and recognized the board after the vote. He then walked out and stopped to take pictures with the group that attended the meeting in hopes of seeing the track that bears his name.
“He’s been instrumental in so many families,” said board trustee Karen Yelsey. “I’ve known him for about 25 years, but I only knew him because my son started running. He became, during this period, a very close friend of the family.
“In fact, I tell people, apart from my husband and myself, no one has had more influence on my son’s life, and he is now 40 years old. … I know a lot of people in this community can say the same thing. ”
Board clerk Carol Crane, who also had a daughter for Sumner, noted that the characteristic that sets her apart from Sumner is her humility.
“You inspire because you lead by example and never ask for anything in return, so thank you for inspiring our kids,” Crane told Sumner in the audience.
The testimony shared at the reunion made it clear that Sumner will be remembered as much, if not more, for the relationships he built with his students as for the accomplishments of his teams.
“It makes sense,” Sumner said. “You don’t think about it until you hear it, but I’m not going to practice and say, ‘How many first-place wins can we get today?’ But I never forget that either, I’m a lot more competitive than people think because I hold my cards close to my chest.
Collectively, Sumner’s teams have won 18 CIF titles and eight state championships.
Her community service also extended to the Cynthia Holcomb Magic Shoe Foundation. The organization’s founder, Sumner and his wife Mary Ellen have collected, cleaned and distributed new and gently used shoes to people in need for decades.
Sumner said the reason he stayed in coaching for so long is to help people.
“That’s how I make a decision,” Sumner said. “I look and I say, ‘OK, this guy votes this way, this guy votes this way. I’m the [tie-breaking] vote.’ If it doesn’t hurt anyone but it helps someone, I’m in. If it hurts anyone, I’m leaving. I’m out of the picture. That’s all. That’s why I coach.
“…This is the path I take. I want to teach them to do something. I want to teach children to progress. I want to teach them to be things, to be things, to do things.
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