Glen “Sonny” Wilburn has been a fixture at Lorain County high school track and cross country meets for years since his days as a standout athlete for Amherst, but this spring will be his first in a leader capacity.
Wilburn, 58, will take over the girls coaching reins at North Ridgeville from Dan Rademaker, 62, who has coached the Rangers since 1991. Rademaker will stay on as one of Wilburn’s assistants.
A 1973 Amherst graduate, Wilburn is one of only three Lorain County boys to ever win a state high school cross country title. He won the 1971 Class AAA team race during his junior season. Wilburn was fourth at the state cross country meet as a senior despite missing most of the season due to a bone spur in his foot. He was also all-state twice in track, taking second in the two-mile run as a junior and fifth as a senior.
Wilburn was also a three-time junior college All-American for Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois. He was a 1974 national track champ for the six-mile run (29:13) and runner-up for the three-mile (13:55) in 1975. Wilburn also placed fifth at the 1973 junior college cross country nationals.
Wilburn first joined the North Ridgeville program last year as an assistant, handling duties in boys and girls distance.
“This spring is going to be a big change, but I’ve been to enough meets over the years,” said Wilburn, who has volunteered at Comet Relays and other Amherst track meets for many years. “Not only am I coaching distance this year, but I’m also coaching sprints and all relays. I ordered some videos on sprints and relays to study.”
Wilburn is being inducted into the Lorain County Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame on April 19 at Midview.
Rademaker took over the North Ridgeville girls job for Ray Beese after three years as a boys assistant. He first joined the high school staff in 1986 as a junior varsity basketball coach, a position he held for eight years.
He started his coaching career in Missouri at Oak Ridge High in 1983-84, coaching basketball and volleyball.
Rademaker graduated from Southeast Missouri State, where he played one year of basketball.
A 1969 graduate of Strongsville, he was a three-sport athlete for the Mustangs in basketball, football and track, lettering twice in each. Rademaker was All-Cuyahoga County Conference for basketball. He was a high jumper and hurdler in track.
North Ridgeville has had difficult finishing in the upper half of the West Shore Conference, as well as previously with the Pioneer Conference, but Rademaker wasn’t short on praise for his athletes.
“Our program had many hard-working, good kids over the years that were good students and a pleasure to coach,” Rademaker said. “It’s also been a pleasure coaching with the guys I’ve been with, as well as coaching against. If someone told me back in 1991 that I’d be coaching girls track for 21 years over basketball, I might not have believed them. It ended up that way and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
The North Ridgeville girls were fifth in the WSC each of the last two years. The Rangers’ best WSC finish was second place in 2006, the conference’s inaugural season. The girls won the 1996 and ’97 Erie Shore Conference titles, the final two years of the conference’s existence. High jumper Carrie Noga was a state qualifier in Rademaker’s tenure, taking 12th in 1996.
Rademaker retired from teaching in June 2011. Wilburn has been a production supervisor since 1998 for Beckett Gas in North Ridgeville.