There will be new leadership in the Marshalltown High School boys' cross country program next season.
Citing the program's need for new energy, long-time coach Tim Bell has decided to step down at season's end.
"You just get to a point where you kind of just know that you've done all you can do," said Bell, who will remain as the athletic director at Marshalltown High School. "We need some new energy. Someone who can take this program to a different level. Sometimes coaches stay in longer than they should. It's time for me to step aside."
Bell built quite a cross country tradition at Marshalltown. In his 32 years at the helm, he has sent at least one runner to the state cross country meet 27 times, and 25 times during that span has his entire squad advanced to Fort Dodge.
Marshalltown has participated in the state meet 30 times, which is second all-time to only Ames, which went 31 times.
Bell will take with him one Iowa State Coach of the Year award as well as several regional and conference coach of the year honors.
"We were consistent for many years, and that is something that I feel good about," Bell said. "We had kids who wanted to keep the tradition going. They wanted to be a team that reloaded every year. We were able to keep things going for many years because the kids were hungry."
Bell chose to step down at the end of the season because that should give him plenty of time to find a replacement before 2013. His final meet of the season could be today at the Class 4A state qualifying meet at Marshalltown Community College.
"I couldn't be any luckier to be around a good group of kids," Bell said. "We haven't necessarily had the season we had hoped to have, but it has been a fun year for me. The kids have helped me deal with the transition."
Bell grew up in Marshalltown, graduated from MHS and has spent the last 35 years in the Marshalltown school district. He doesn't know anything else. And he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Marshalltown has been good to myself and my family," the long-time coach said. "We've had a great opportunity to meet people through cross country. We also have made lots of lifelong memories with a lot of great people."
Bell has seen it all as the Bobcats head coach. And the sport of cross country has changed from his first year to now. The biggest change is that the popularity of the sport has grown immensely over the years.
He also said the athletes are still the same - they still have to work hard.
"There are no shortcuts in cross country," said Bell, who started teaching and coaching in Marshalltown in 1978. "The enthusiasm for the sport has increased for sure. But it is more difficult now because of work schedules and other activities. That has made things harder."
Bell started out as a middle school teacher and coach and also served as an assistant girls track coach. He has been head cross country coach for 32 years and before becoming the athletic director, he was the assistant principal for nine years.
"One of the best things about coaching is taking those average kids and working with them to become strong runners," Bell said. "It was fun watching them work hard and surprise some people later in their careers."
During Bell's time as head boys cross country coach, three coaches have guided the girls' program - Eldon Ott, Larry Kester and the current coach Doug Bacon.
"Those guys were all very good to work with, and we all taught each other some things," Bell said. "They are good coaches, and I had a great working relationship with all of them."
As a Marshalltown athlete, Bell ran cross country for three years (the high school did not include freshmen back then) and was an all-state basketball player and all-state pole vaulter. He later played basketball collegiately at Northwest Missouri State.
His final meet as Bobcat head coach - not including the 2012 state meet - will be today at MCC. The Class 4A portion of the meet will follow the Class 1A state qualifier, which begins at 3:30 p.m.