By Robert Fulton
Former Poway High School track and field coach, cross country coach and teacher Dan Schaitel may be retired, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still working.
Schaitel’s latest project is a Wall of Fame at Poway High highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Titans who participated in cross country and track and field since the school opened in 1961.
“Once we started this wall of fame, it became very apparent it was going to take a lot of research and a lot of follow through to get this thing complete and accurate,” Schaitel said. “So that’s the main focus right now.”
Schaitel coached and taught at Poway High for nearly three decades. He retired from teaching four years ago, and coaching last year. He first started kicking around the idea of a way to honor Titan track, field and distance athletes back in the 1980s. The school put up a record board in the library, but that tribute didn’t last. Schaitel took advantage of his retirement to finally see his vision through.
The resulting Wall of Fame will measure 32 feet wide and eight feet tall. The two-sided wall will be divided into three panels and 12 display cases, and will be located on the north end of the track.
“The project is sitting right behind me,” Schaitel joked, referring to the blueprints in his house.
Schaitel said he has a company lined up to construct the wall and another to make the cabinets. All he needs to see the blueprints become reality is the approval of the school district, which he hopes won’t be too long. He estimates it will take three weeks to construct once he gets the thumbs up.
Through private fundraising, Schaitel has raised $20,000, enough to cover construction. He estimates that he needs another $3,000 to finish the project.
“It would be where anybody can come and show off to their children, grandchildren, ‘Here’s my name,’” Schaitel, 67, said. “My objective is to get as many Poway athletes names up there. It’s not just to put the school record holders.”
Research has monopolized much of Schaitel’s time. He’s combed the archives of various area newspapers, including the Poway News Chieftain; interviewed former coaches; and spoken with longtime folks who covered or were involved in the local track scene. He’s also benefited from the aid of Sherri Cortez and Leslie Jensen, both who have or have had children at Poway.
Schaitel has spent countless hours researching and fact checking Poway High records and results dating back five decades.
“The big thing is, when you put up records, the criteria is it has too be public and it has to be published,” Schaitel said.
With notebooks hundreds of pages thick, Schaitel has another project in mind. He plans to write a book that includes up-to-date records of Poway track and cross country athletes. The work will also include Schaitel’s personal stories from when he coached at St. Augustine and other involvement in the San Diego sports world.
“When I retired, you’re often asked what are you going to do,” Schaitel said. “My first answer was always I’m going to do some history, I’m going to do some research and I’m going to do some writing.”
While the book project is coming together, it’s the Wall of Fame that may very well be summed up with one word: legacy.
“I was taught that one of the legacies a coach should leave is an accurate record of what you’ve done,” Schaitel said. “It’s only fair to the kids. I really think that’s one of the last responsibilities. That’s why I kept putting it off until I got done and became more objective about it. It’s not just my legacy, it’s the school’s legacy.”
If you have information regarding any Poway High track and field or cross country athletes who might be appropriate for the Wall of Fame, contact Dan Schaitel at email@example.com.