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Bill Althaus: Wildcats' Hall of Famer Cusack makes lasting impression

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Joe Cusack shows his enthusiasm as a girls basketball assistant coach, but he made his mark as a track and field head coach, leading his Blue Springs teams to seven state trophies and three state titles. He is a member of the 2021 class of the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

Joe Cusack isn’t just a hall of fame coach.

The Blue Springs High School track and field icon is a hall of fame human being.

And don’t just take my word for it, listen to what his peers and former athletes have to say about one of the newest members of the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

“I give it all to Cusack,” said Blue Springs grad Taysean Goodwin, who won the Kansas City Small College Athlete of the Year Honorary Espy award in 2020 following an All-American season at Emporia State University. “I would not be where I am today without Coach Cusack. 

“He is the greatest coach ever, but he is more than a coach. He has a passion for his sport and for everyone he is around. He is a special man – not just a special coach, a special man!”

Blue Springs High School graduate Khalil Davis, a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl 55 championship team, has fond memories as a member of Cusack’s track and field teams.

When the Wildcats won their second consecutive state championship in 2015, I was sitting with Khalil and his twin brother Carlos, the two premier throwers in the nation, when Khalil said, “Coach has a way of making everyone feel special.

“I love this team. We all do something different, but Coach makes us all feel like one team – even the girls and guys feel like one team. How does he do it? Just ask Coach C because he keeps doing it every year. I love being on this team. Most fun I have is being on Coach C’s teams.”

Darrius Shepherd, who played wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, was part of Cusack’s legendary 1,600 relay teams and recalls his coach urging on the relay runners in the final event of each track and field meet.

“Coach helped us believe in ourselves as much as he believed in us,” said Shepherd, another member of the back-to-back state championship teams 2014 and 2015. “He taught us grit and taught us a team-first approach and he helped me get where I am today.

“And I’ll always remember those 4-by-4 races with Coach cheering us on and clapping. You could hear him all the way around the track.”

Jennifer Reeder, the longtime Wildcats girls track and field coach, can’t help but grin when she talks about Cusack, who was recently inducted as part of the 2021 Hall of Fame class.

“His passion for life and sport and our students and this high school make him so special,” Reeder said. 

And Frank Gallick, who has earned great respect as the school’s cross country coach and Cusack’s distance coach, added, “I don’t want to make this as long as some of Joe’s pre-practice talks, but he is as passionate about his sport, his school and our students as anyone I know.

“He is a great ambassador for our sport – the first to arrive and the last to leave, because he wants to either console or congratulate everyone he comes in contact with. Now that is special.”

Now that I’m in my prime years, people keep asking why I continue the daily grind of being a sportswriter.

And I can answer in two words: Joe Cusack.

Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at bill.althaus@examiner.net or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

By the numbers

Joe Cusack’s Hall of Fame career at Blue Springs High School:

• 8 conference championships

• 8 district championships

• 7 consecutive state trophies

• 5 sectional championships

• 5 undefeated regular seasons (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

• 3 state championships (2014, 2015, 2017)

• 1 undefeated season (2017)

Bill Althaus