“He just had a real decorated career;” Son of legendary track coach remembers father

A Centerville legend passed away and the community is mourning the loss of their coach.

>>RELATED: Legendary Centerville track & field coach dies at 76

Criss Somerlot was Centerville’s Cross County and Track team coach for over 20 years before handing the position over to his son, Matt Somerlot.

Criss died on Monday at 76 years old, August 14 while battling Parkinson’s disease, but his legacy will live on for years to come.

Matt said his father did monumental things for the Centerville track community.

Criss started the Centerville women’s track and field program in the spring of 1975 and six years later, he was the coach of a state championship team.

“He just had a real decorated career and did a ton of stuff for track,” Matt said. His obituary also stated that he was chosen as an Olympic coach in 2004 and 2008 for the throws.

Matt has been the current head track and field coach for Centerville for 29 years and he said his dad paved the way for him.

“From being a little kid and running around [the track], I mean even our babysitters ran track,” Matt said.

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He said his father was always a laid-back coach and wasn’t afraid to lighten the mood.

Criss didn’t care what sport a kid played, he treated all school athletes with respect and became a coach for all athletes, something Matt admired about his father.

“He realized what sports could do, part of it came from the fact that his dad passed away when he was 13 and he realized in order for him to go to college he was going to need a scholarship, so being a 2-time state champion, he saw the doors that opened. It got him to Ohio University,” Matt said.

Matt said his father always pushed to help students out, no matter what school they were from.

At track meets, “It wasn’t just their kids it was track kids. It was Dayton kids especially; they were looking out for those kids,” Matt said.

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Every year Centerville and Wayne High School compete against each other in a dual track meet that raises money for an organization that has meaning to them, and this year they are donating in Criss’s honor.

“It will be here at Centerville, I believe. He passed away from Parkinson’s disease so we’re going to give a donation to Parkinson’s disease,” Matt said.

Matt said he wants the community to remember his father’s caring spirit and how he rooted for everyone, not just his own team.