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Longtime Bon Homme coach teetering with retirement

WAGNER -- Bon Homme junior Tara Ronke does not want a different coach for her senior season of track and field. Ronke is hoping for the same coach who has been with her since her freshman year. Bryon Pudwill, who is the school's football and trac...

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Bon Homme track and field coach Byron Pudwill, right, talks with assistant coach Rusty Roland during the Little Missouri Valley Conference track and field meet Tuesday in Wagner. (Justin Rust/Republic)

WAGNER -- Bon Homme junior Tara Ronke does not want a different coach for her senior season of track and field.

Ronke is hoping for the same coach who has been with her since her freshman year.

Bryon Pudwill, who is the school's football and track coach, has not made up his mind on whether he is going to return for his 31st year at Bon Homme.

"Hopefully, this isn't his last year. Hopefully, he will stay for my senior year," she said. "I like him a lot as a coach, and the team likes him a lot. He would be missed if he wasn't the coach next year."

Pudwill's decision to return to Bon Homme next year is still "up in the air," he said. But he said he's definitely considering retirement.

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"As of right now, I am coming back," Pudwill said. "I can't believe I have been doing this for 28 years. Some days, it feels like a couple of weeks, and some days it feels like it's been 100 years. It just might be that time."

Pudwill, 51, said missing time with his family during the past 30 years of coaching has taken a toll.

"You think about the time you missed with your own family," said Pudwill, who has two daughters -- Katie, 25, and Kelsey, 23. "That's really the only real regret I have ever had. There are times I wish I could have spent more time with them and my wife, Ginger. You end up spending more time with other people's kids than you do your own."

Pudwill said he's enjoyed every moment coaching high school athletes.

He said this year's senior class for football and track and field has been especially fun to coach.

"It has nothing to do with the kids," he said. "I love the kids and I love the school. This year's senior class has been easy to coach and fun to coach. It's been a neat ride."

As the track and field coach, Pudwill has led the boys' and girls' team to 42 combined conference and region titles since 1990. After Bon Homme swept the Little Missouri Valley Conference Tuesday in Wagner, the total was pushed to 44.

Pudwill said the year has gone pretty well for both the boys' and girls' track teams.

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"Right now, we have a great, great group of guys and we have won every track meet we have been to except for one, which is fun," he said. "The girls have won a couple of meets, too, and I think they will do well."

When Pudwill calls it quits, he will join his former mentor in retirement. For the first 18 years of his football coaching career, Pudwill was an assistant for Russ Morrell at Bon Homme.

When Morrell moved on to become the head coach at Wagner, Pudwill became the football coach at Bon Homme. Morrell has since stepped down as Wagner's head coach, but is helping as an assistant football coach.

Morrell said it was extremely fun to coach with Pudwill.

"He is intense, maybe he isn't as intense as he was at one time," he said. "He is very thorough and he is always well-prepared. Bon Homme has won a lot of track meets because he spreads his athletes all the way out and gets a lot of points and wins a lot of meets."

Pudwill's intensity has helped push his athletes, according to senior Jared Van Winkle.

"He's a great guy to work with, and always has great advice," said Van Winkle, who is a senior on the track and field team and will play football for Dakota Wesleyan this fall. "He has taught me many things. He tells us all of the time how great of kids we are and how great it has been to work with us."

Van Winkle is on the track team and played football for Pudwill. He said he's learned plenty from the veteran coach.

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"Some of the tougher days aren't very enjoyable, but they are all worth it in the end," he said. "I wouldn't want another coach around. I have improved so much just because of all of his advice."

As the end of the track season winds down, and the end of May gets closer, Pudwill will still be trying to make up his mind, he said.

But one thing Pudwill does not want to do is regret walking away from coaching too early.

"I've talked to guys who have gotten out of it, and most of them miss it," he said. "I definitely don't want to do that. I love being here right now with the kids and the coaches."

"The kids don't seem too tired of me yet. I guess if they want me to stick around, I will stick around."

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Avon's Derek Cihak, back, hands off the baton to teammate Jackson Powers during the Medley Relay at the Little Missouri Valley Conference track and field meet Tuesday in Wagner. (Justin Rust/Republic)

Related Topics: AVONWAGNERETHANPARKSTONDELMONT
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