Jack Henck

Mention the sport of track and field in Fayette County and the name of Jack Henck towers above everyone else connected with the sport.

Henck who passed away in 2003 at the age of 76, produced some powerhouse track and field teams at Brownsville High School for over three decades.



Chuck Muncie  

Gallo was a standout at Geibel High School in the early 1990's before transferring to Connellsville High School for her senior year in 1991-92.

A longtime teacher in the Brownsville school district, Henck also coached football. He was the Falcons' first grid mentor in 1966 when Brownsville and Redstone merged into Brownsville Area. He held the job for only two years after guiding Brownsville the previous three campaigns. He later served as an assistant football coach, and he returned as Head Coach in 1978 following five head coaches (Chuck Abramski, Vince Coppolino, Walt Whitehead, Tom Polosky and Tom Domen) in 11 years.

Henck was replaced John DeSimone in a surprise move. In his second stint, the Falcons sandwiched a pair of 2-7 seasons around a 5-4-1 mark in 1979 which was the only winning season in the school's 15-year existence.

Track and field was where Henck made his mark. When he stepped down at Brownsville prior to the 1991-92 season, he was the dean of western Pennsylvania track coaches and was a former President of the Fayette County Coaches Association and the Mon Valley Track Coaches Association.

Henck was a track and field innovator and was accorded ìLegendî status by the athletes that he coached.

Willibe Brooks was part of the relay team with Ron Matteucci, Tom Kostelnik and Paul Cseko that won the 1961 WPIAL championship in the high hurdle shuttle relay. Brooks also won the WPIAL championship in the high hurdles as a senior and the PIAA high hurdles title. He dominated that event all season long during the Brownies' dual meet season. In the County Meet, he was clocked at 14.3 seconds to set a new meet mark. That qualified him for the WPIAL championships which he won with a 14.6 clocking. In the PIAA event he was timed at 14.1, but the time wasn't recognized as a new record because of wind velocity. Brooks also won the 1962 Junior Track championship in the high hurdles.

ìThe high hurdles was my event, but Coach Henck was the reason I won,î Brooks explained. ìHe was the coach of all coaches. He had me so primed in the high hurdles that he would have high jump poles over top of three high hurdles and I would run them blindfolded. Thatís how good he had me trained, and I had great times on a cinder track. He was a coach and the main thing was he got us in shape. He was hard on us but he was real, no cry babies. He was real.î

ìWe won the WPIAL championship in the high hurdle relay,î Kostelnik offered. ìThat was all football players: Paul Cesko, Willibe Brooks, Ron Matteucci and me. Jack Henck was the track coach and I lived a couple of blocks from him, and I did all my workouts in the gym he had setup in his garage. He was a great coach who had us well prepared and in great condition.î

Paced by the sensational hurdle- dash duo of Brooks and Matteucciówho scored a combined total of 23 points, Brownsville dethroned perennial champion Mount Lebanon to win Class A honors in the 54th annual WPIAL track and field meet held in 1961 at Canonsburg.

Brownsville, already crowned Fayette County track champions, scored a total of 32 team points to halt Mount Lebanon's quest for its 13th WPIAL title, and sixth in succession.

Brownsville captured another WPIAL track title in 1988. The Falcons defeated Beaver Falls 93 Ω to 56 Ω and Trinity 83-67. Beaver Falls finished second defeating Trinity 77-71.

ìBrownsville won it in 1961, but this is the first one for the jointure,î Henck said at the time. ìWe're very proud of it.î

ìI told the kids they won't realize just how good this is until five years from now, when they're out of high school, and they look back and say, 'We're on the first championship team since the jointure.'î

Another highlight for Henck was Kerry Whitman winning the WPIAL and PIAA javelin throwing championships in 1976. Whitman is the first Brownsville state champion since Willibe Brooks won the 120-yd. high hurdles title back in 1961. It was quite a feat for Whitman to win the state title since he finished 11th in the qualifying the day before the finals

"We sat down Friday night and had quite a talk about the day's events, and looked ahead to Saturday," Henck said, adding "we talked about other meets, and I told him about how Brooks had come on strong to win the state championship in his senior season and that he still had the chance to become Brownsville's first champion since 1961.î

With that added boost from his coach, and the reminder of efforts past, Whitman went out and put his name in the Brownsville record books.

With the Falcons, Henck compiled an overall 335-31 record including WPIAL team championships in 1961 and 1988. The Falcons captured four straight section titles from 1987 through 1990 and finished on top in six of the last seven years. At one point, the Falcons had a string of 98 consecutive victories.

In 1961, Henck was named Coach of the Year by the Dapper Dan Club of Pittsburgh, and in 1991, he was named the Outstanding High School Track Coach for the State of Pennsylvania.

Henck, who served as California University's part-time men's and women's track coach was named the college's full-time men's and women's track coach for the 1991-92 campaign and led the Vulcans for four seasons.

Longtime California University track coach Marty Uher, who started the Vulcans track program, utilized Henck as his throwing and pole vault coach, before Henck took over when Uher stepped down.

Uher, who was inducted in the California University of Pennsylvania Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009, remembered Henck with fondness.

ìHe was quite a guy and a great person,î Uher said. ìHe was really great in communicating with his athletes.î

Henck passed away on November 5, 2003.


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