Rick Neill was the Head Track/Cross Country Coach at Lewisville High School from 1995 until cancer took him in 2000. Today, LEF administers the Rick Neill Memorial Scholarship, awarding it to a senior graduating from LHS with minimum 3.0 GPA, who demonstrates campus leadership and involvement, who lettered in track or cross country and who provides references from the current LHS track coach and one other LHS faculty member.
But who was Rick Neill, and why is a scholarship awarded in his name?
“Oh, Coach Neill was a great guy,” longtime LHS employee Dixie McMath said. “That’s a man who cared about kids and pushed them to be their best.”
Neill’s road to education was long and winding. His career path saw him achieve the rank of Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He coached and taught at the high school and college levels, as well as at the Olympic level, leading the track team of the Yemen Arab Repubic in the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1994 USA Olympic Heptathlon team. He also coached individual athletes at the 1996 US Olympic Trials and the 1999 US Olympic Festival.
The reason for his success was clear to those who knew him.
“Rick was a leader in every sense of the word,” Ray White said. White served as Neill’s assistant coach at LHS and now serves as the Head Boys Track Coach at Barbers Hill High School. “He demanded excellence from his athletes, coaches and students. He was able to do this because he demanded excellence from himself. He never expected more than what he asked of himself. This made it easy to challenge yourself to achieve the goals he set for the team and classroom.”
His dedication to excellence is showcased in the accolades he collected as an educator.
Neill was the State of Idaho’s National Junior College Coach of the year in 1989 and 1991. He was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1997. At LHS he was the 1999-2000 Teacher of The Year, an award selected by his peers and rarely awarded to a Physical Education teacher.
During his tenure at LHS he trained athletes to do great things, reviving the program to reach for the success seen in the Goldsmith years. His athletes advanced to regional and state competition, and won District as a Track Team two of his five years as head coach.
“It’s the little things that make champions,” Neill was quoted as saying. For that reason he held his athletes to high standards in discipline, respect and ethics.
He also built up the next generation of coaches.
“He was always teaching,” White said. “He would explain to us younger coaches why we were doing a drill or workout, not just to do it. He instilled pride and character in the lives of young people who needed it most. He was tough and sometimes at first those around him did not understand him, but as time passed they did. They loved him for the values and work ethic he taught them.”
In your educational journey, which teacher impacted you? Have you reached out to that teacher to let him know the impact he made? Have you considered cementing his legacy with a scholarship in his honor? LEF is proud to partner with you in the work of leaving a legacy. Contact LEF Programs Coordinator Sherah Robinson for more information.