From boys freshman basketball all the way to girls track this year, Tom Hengel has reached a combined 100 seasons as a coach at Clearview Regional High School.
Hengel, who started his coaching career in 1981, has led the Pioneers in cross country, spring and winter track, basketball, and baseball. Before his coaching days, the longtime Harrison Township resident worked in home construction and had a part-time job in the municipality.
“If somebody had asked me back then how long I’d be coaching, I probably would have said 5 to 10 years,” Hengel said.
Because track and field has a spring and winter season, Hengel has been able to reach the milestone, a feat that may never be matched. But what keeps Hengel’s passion for coaching fresh is the high-interest level in the kids he coaches.
“It seems like there is always somebody who takes a little bit stronger interest, so you always want to try and help them to reach any goals that they have,” he explained.
While Hengel has loved every sport he’s coached, one career moment stands out: coaching the 1990 girls track team to a Group 2 state title.
“We were undefeated in every single thing we ran that year,” he recalled. “Every dual meet, every relay meet, every invitational meet where there is team scoring.”
Hengel’s team eventually won two more consecutive titles in 1991 and 1992.
The coach was inducted into the Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame in March of 2018, a special honor for Hengel given he shares the milestone with some of the great coaches and athletes in Gloucester County.
“That was a really great moment for me and it is something that I will cherish forever,” he noted.
Hengel has coached 95 individual conference champions, 56 individual county champions, and 36 individual sectional champions in girls track alone, among other coaching accomplishments that are too many to list. Through it all, he has had one piece of advice for young aspiring athletes: to “be good people.”
“Be a good student, work hard, and know that nothing is given to you, you have to earn it,” Hengel advised.
Hengel believes sports can help students learn those life lessons.
While he hasn’t announced when he will hang it up, he knows that it will be “fairly soon.”