Don Bohlinger was much more than a track coach for West Babylon High School.
Yes, he was the first Suffolk County coach to win the Triple Crown — county championships in cross country, winter track and field, and spring track and field — but he did much more than that.
“To most of us, he was our second father,” said Will Allmendinger, Class of 1974. “He gave us our first driving lesson; that is how much time we spent with him.”
Allmendinger was on the last team that Coach Bohlinger would impact.
In the fall of 1974, after dropping his son, Don, at college he suffered a heart attack and died. He was just 44.
Even though he had coached for less than 10 years, and over four decades ago, his legacy lives on today.
On Friday, May 11, at the Don Bohlinger Relays at West Babylon Junior High School, West Babylon School District renamed the track in his honor.
“He had a juggernaut for a team,” said current coach Phil Armato. “But he was better known for the relationships he forged.”
At the ceremony, Bohlinger’s family gathered by the 50-yard line to accept the honor.
“We aren’t here today because of banners and trophies, we are here because my father changed kids’ lives,” said Bohlinger’s son, Don. “He loved his students.”
“My dad loved this sport, he loved competition and competitors,” he continued.
“He would have been really happy to be here today.”
Top: Don Bohlinger’s family is presented with the new Don Bohlinger sign that will be hanging by the newly named track. (Credit: Nicholas Esposito)