Longtime Arlington soccer coach John Werner dies

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ARLINGTON — John A. Werner, a high school and college soccer coach whose impact on Arlington extended well beyond wins and losses, died Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.

Werner was beloved in his adopted home town of Arlington as an educator and mentor as well as a winning coach who put soccer in Southern Vermont on the map. As boys' soccer coach at Arlington Memorial High School, his teams compiled a record of 346-108-31 in 31 seasons and won seven Vermont state championships. He also served as athletic director at AMHS and established a popular soccer camp in Arlington, which celebrated its 39th anniversary last summer.

After retiring from AMHS, Werner served nine seasons from 2004 to 2012 as head coach of men's soccer at Castleton University, and was inducted into that school's athletic hall of fame last fall. He compiled a record of 105-69-12 (.597), leading the Spartans to three North Atlantic Conference championships, three NCAA tournament appearances and three ECAC postseason appearances. He was named NAC coach of the year three times.

But Werner's legacy was not limited to the soccer field. After being diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2015, he teamed up with Brandon Smith, one of his former players who was also fighting the disease. They came up with "LINAO" — an acronym for "losing is not an option" — as a means of staying mentally strong and raising money to support the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center.

The movement "just took on a life of its own," Werner said last year. "Now that I'm retired, I'm trying to keep doing what I always did, and that's to try and inspire the guys who play for me."

It continued to build momentum, as last fall the Southern Vermont College men's soccer program hosted its first LINAO Mountaineer Invitational to raise funds for the effort.

A Long Island native, Werner played college soccer at the State University of New York at Oneonta, and moved to Arlington to teach science and math at Arlington Memorial High School. He became AMHS' varsity boys' soccer coach in 1973, and his teams won a string of five state titles in seven years in the 1980s.

Werner was named National Federation of Interscholastic Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1995. He was Vermont Soccer Coaches Association Coach of the Year award six times, the last in 2002, the NSCAA New England Coach of the Year award four times, and the Marble Valley League Coach of the Year on five different occasions.

Werner started the area's youth program in 1975 and established a summer camp in 1978, at Fisher Elementary School.

When Arlington named its soccer field after Werner in 2016, current AMHS coach Todd Wilkins praised Werner's commitment to his community and its children over the years.

"He has taught so many of us the game of soccer, but more importantly he has taught us commitment, he has taught us teamwork, he has taught us to be good people and so much more," Wilkins said at the dedication, according to Werner's soccer website. "He has shown us how this simple game can help create lifelong friendships that run deeper than any game."

He was inducted into the Vermont Principals Association Hall of Fame in 2004 and the SUNY-Oneonta Hall of Fame in 2014.

Werner is survived by his wife Judy, and the couple's two children, son J.K. and daughter Jordan.

Funeral service arrangements had yet to be made public when this story was published.

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