Werner to be inducted into Castleton HOF

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CASTLETON — Legendary soccer coach John Werner will have yet another Hall of Fame induction on his resume.

Already a member of the Vermont Principals Association Hall of Fame and the Oneonta State Hall of Fame, Werner will be inducted to the Castleton University Hall of Fame on Sept. 16.

"I got to live, study and work in three amazing places, Oneonta, Arlington and Castleton," said Werner on Friday. "I was excited when Deanna [Tyson, the Castleton athletic director], called me back in April to tell me about it. I guess I made a difference."

After retiring from Arlington after coaching 31 seasons, Werner served nine seasons from 2004 to 2012 as head coach of the Castleton men's soccer team, compiling an overall mark of 105-69-12 (.597). He led the Spartans to three North Atlantic conference championships, three NCAA tournament appearances and three ECAC postseason appearances.

Individually, he was named NAC coach of the year three times, 2004, 2007 and 2010.

"It was a good time to make a change after 31 years at Arlington. I was a homespun recruiter, I let them find us a little bit, to see if Castleton was a good fit academically and close to home — we had a lot of Vermonters on the teams," Werner said. "[College president] Dave [Wolk] called me about it in January. I had a couple of amazing assistants, Paul Storey and Scott French. Paul had been an assistant before and Scott stayed on and was with me all nine years."

Inductees can choose who will give a speech and Werner said he asked Wolk to do it.

"He was happy to do it, even though he had never done one before," Werner said.

In 2009, Werner took on a new challenge, filling in as the Castleton softball coach. The team needed a veteran hand to lead it and Werner was the overwhelming choice.

"I set three goals, the first was to take a trip South and we did that two of the three years ... it was fun organizing all of that," Werner said. "Another was to do some recruiting, I ended up getting Taylor Lively, who was the conference pitcher of the year (and an assistant coach later on). The third was the change the tone of the team and I think we did that, so at the end of three years, I had reached my goals, so I stepped down. It was a wonderful experience, it was the first time ever coaching women, so it was different, but I was like a father-figure to them."

Werner said he also had a great assistant in Brigette Olsen as well.

After retiring from Castleton, Werner founded the southern Vermont branch of TOPSoccer, a program for children with disabilities. He has also turned his cancer diagnosis into a positive by creating LINAO (Losing Is Not An Option) bumper stickers to raise money to benefit the Southwest Vermont Regional Cancer Center.

He's also become something of a professional wedding guest, as players from both the soccer teams and softball teams invite he and his wife, Judy, to celebrate the nupitals.

"Someone said, I never knew a guy who gets invited to so many weddings," Werner said. "There was one a couple weeks ago, there were 10 teammates from Castleton for one of my players. I loved my time at Castleton."

Three others will be inducted on Sept. 16, including soccer standout Erin Zapata, a 2006 grad, baseball record holder Chad Phillips, a 2005 grad, and former men's basketball head coach Stan Van Gundy, who began his career at Castleton in the mid-80s before eventually coaching in the NBA.

The induction ceremony will take place Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Castleton Pavilion just outside Spartan Stadium starting at 10 a.m. The cost to attend is $20, and brunch will be served during the event. To register for the event online, click here. The RSVP date is Wednesday, Sept. 6.


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