McKitrick celebrates three decades of teaching, coaching

Yaneek Smith

        Serving in the armed forces, serving as a counselor at a church camp, competing as a student-athlete in college have shaped John McKitrick into the teacher and coach he is today.
        Thirty years into teaching, the Sandusky native and University of Toledo graduate is reflecting on his time teaching at Oak Harbor Junior High and coaching track and field, swimming, golf and cross country.
        McKitrick teaches mathematics, has been the head girls track coach for 25 years and has been an employee of Benton-Carroll-Salem School District for 26 years. Currently, he is coaching boys golf at the high school and swimming at the junior high, too. He has earned legendary status for coaching the Rocket girls track team to 12 Sandusky Bay Conference titles, including 11 in a row from 2010-21.
        When McKitrick was in high school, he wasn’t sure what kind of a job he wanted to get.
        “I was working at a church camp and enjoyed it, so I thought teaching would be a good fit for me. In high school, I was pretty much undecided; I just knew I was going to go to college. Sometime around then, I was a camp counselor at a church camp, and that went pretty well, so I thought teaching might go really well. I didn’t know it would be a fit, but I just thought it might go well.
        “I always enjoyed math, though I didn’t choose math at first because I wanted to become a vocational teacher for drafting and architecture,” he said. “I took a lot of drafting and architecture classes in high school. I had a phenomenal teacher for those subjects. But somewhere in my first year of college, there was a class I was taking, and they were talking about the Perkins bill, which, if it passed, would cut off funding for drafting and architecture classes. At the time I thought, I’m not going to go into something that might be eliminated, so I switched to math, but it worked out. I got a degree in elementary education in grades 1-8 with a concentration in math.”
        McKitrick said he greatly benefited from his time in the service.
        “I was in the Army National Guard between the junior and senior year of high school,” he said. “I came back my senior year and was a lot stronger, more confident. Then I went back with the regular army in Missouri after high school. Those two summers changed me as a kid. The combination of those kids at the church camp and the people who influenced me made a major change in my life.”
        He also discussed choosing to join the track team in college, which makes for a great story.
        “After a couple years of college, I was sitting at a library, and I knew my body had changed – I had gotten stronger and I thought I was faster. I was studying for exams, and I said, ‘I’m going to join the track team.’ I introduced myself to the track coach, but he didn’t seem interested. He told me to be at practice at 3 p.m. on Monday. I went back to my house, I told my roommates that I just joined the track team, and they laughed at me. They discouraged me.
        “My parents said, ‘Focus on your studies.’ I had no encouragement whatsoever,” said McKitrick. “I don’t know how I ended up there at 3 p.m. on Monday, and I was the only kid at the practice. All his varsity team had the week off. He took me out there, and it was cold and miserable. He had me run 10 200-meter runs. The 200s are a hard workout for a sprinter, especially for one who’s not in shape.
        “I came back the next day, and the next week, his team was there, and I was able to practice with them. I thought, I can hang out with these guys, they’re college athletes. We finally had our first meet against Bowling Green. I ran the hurdles and finished second in both hurdling events. There’s no more difficult event in track than the 400 hurdles. Then I started making relays. By the end of the season, I was All-MAC in four different events,” he said.
        McKitrick lives in Oak Harbor and his three kids have gone to school there. His two oldest children, Madison and Rylee, were stellar track athletes, and his son, Logan, is a junior at the high school.
        Madison is attending UT and is in the Air National Guard and Rylee is enrolled at Owens Community College.
        “I think Oak Harbor is one of the best-kept secrets around. If you’re raising a family, if you want your kids in a nice, safe environment with great athletics, where else can you find that resembles this? There are nice towns everywhere, there are plenty of nice places, but do they offer what Oak Harbor offers? The people are, for the most part, going in the same direction,” said McKitrick said. “They’re supportive of the kids, our athletes. You can almost guarantee the Oak Harbor crowd is going to beat your crowd in attendance. If you look at our football stands, it’s bare on the visitors’ side. When we’re on the visitors side at a game, the stands are full.
        “I tell my athletes, ‘you represent your coaches, school, teachers and community,’” he said, adding that he is among many good coaches at the high school.
        “I don’t think Dan Hoover has had to hire too many head coaches. Renee Goldstein coached for a long time, and Gina Warnke did, too. The football coaches have been there forever, there’s Andrea Sorg in swimming, George Bergman in wrestling and Eric Sweet in basketball,” he said.
        “The longevity of our high school coaches is nice,” said McKitrick. “People don’t want to coach when they’re not appreciated, and this town appreciates their coaches. If you didn’t feel respected or wanted by the community, you wouldn’t want to do this. There are a lot of hoops that you have to jump through to do this.”


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