Tribute to Coach Jim Yedowitz

Rye High School remembers the man behind Rye boy's track & field.


Rye boy’s track coach Jim Yedowitz (Yed), who worked at Rye High School for 43 years, has died at age 70. Yedowitz died on Wednesday, January 2 in the hospital of pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his spine and lungs. He leaves behind his wife, Anne, their three daughters, Glenn, Jamie, and Emily, son Daniel, and eight grandchildren.

Yedowitz was a lifelong resident of Yonkers, NY. The youngest of 5 children, he discovered his passion for track and field while attending Cardinal Spellman High School. After graduating, Yedowitz continued his track career at Manhattan College (class of 1970). He was named captain of Manhattan’s track team as a senior.

Yedowitz ran for Cardinal Spellman High and later Manhattan College.

Although he taught briefly for the Yonkers Public Schools, Yedowitz came to Rye High School in 1975. He taught health and physical education at Rye for 33 years, until 2008. Yedowitz was known among students for his strong sense of humor and his enthusiasm in the classroom. His impact on Rye High lives on through his “No Homework Over Winter Break Policy,” which forbids teachers from assigning homework over winter break. He believed vacation is a time when students should have the chance to relax and spend time with family.

Despite his dedication to teaching (he also briefly coached the Rye cross country and soccer teams), Yedowitz’s true passion remained on the track. Over the years, he consistently coached competitive teams and had two athletes achieve national titles. In 1999, Yedowitz cheered on his own daughter, Jamie, as she won the national title in the race walk.

Yedowitz was there to cheer on daughter Jamie as she won the national title in the racewalk.

Jamie was not the only Yedowitz to continue her father’s track legacy. “All four made lasting friendships and loved the competition [on the track team],” said Yedowitz’s wife, Anne. “Being on the track team definitely brought our family closer… Since we do not live in Rye, the drive home after practice or to a meet was always a special time for them to talk. In fact, many hours were spent discussing practice and meets. Our family communication definitely benefitted. Being on the track team coached by their dad was an amazing, very special time in our lives!”

Back in November, Yedowitz told athletes that he had been diagnosed with both diabetes and cancer over the summer, but promised to keep coaching. His positive attitude reflected his motto, “If I tell myself I won’t get sick, then I won’t.” Unfortunately, over winter break, his condition deteriorated rapidly and unexpectedly. He was admitted to the hospital just four days after he coached at the Pearl River Holiday Meet on December 27th.

Even though he was feeling his worst, Yedowitz continued to revise a lineup for an upcoming meet from his hospital bed. One of the athletes he mentioned was sophomore Owen Nguyen, who was the youngest member of the 4 x mile relay team that had broken the school record only a week prior to Yedowitz’s death. “Yed taught me that I am the only thing between myself and my goals,” said Nguyen. “His confidence in me was frightening, until, race after race, I realized I was capable of his expectations.”

(L-R) Cian Galligan, Brad Squarek, Owen Nguyen, and John Goldzer pose for a picture with Coach Yed at the Jim Mitchell Invitational after setting a new record for Rye in the 4 x mile relay. Photo from Lohud.

Cian Galligan, who is also a co-captain of the track team this year, recalled the moment his team shattered the school record in the 4 x mile relay as his favorite memory with Coach Yed. “Coach Yed was so deliriously happy with the race we had run, and he thanked us for giving him an early Christmas present. It is a memory I will aways cherish.”

Whether someone was the best athlete or the worst, Yedowitz made every single person on the team feel important. He encouraged everyone to come out for track and try different events, regardless of their abilities. While Yedowitz cared a lot about winning, he also coached for the right reasons and put his athletes first.

Coach McGee, the head coach of the Rye girl’s track team, coached with Yedowitz for 38 years. After McGee switched from coaching football to coaching track in the early 80’s, he and Yedowitz became fast friends. When asked why he believes his partnership with Yedowitz was so successful, McGee replied fondly, “I liked his philosophy of coaching and, of course, his jokes that I heard over and over. He coached some great athletes that went on to state meets for every decade he coached. But what he did best was create an atmosphere where all kids were welcome… I guess what kept us together all these years was our friendship on and off the track.”

Coach McGee and Coach Yedowitz. Photo from @ryerunning Instagram.

Despite the shock of Yedowitz’s death, athletes are pushing through the rest of the season with the determination to succeed—because it’s what Yed would’ve wanted. In a very emotional race at the Hispanic Games on January 5th, the girls 4 x 800m relay team placed third with a time that crushed their own school record and qualified them for nationals. After the race, senior co-captain Elena Perez-Segnini remarked that she and the other girls could feel Yed’s presence in the Armory that night. “He always told me, ‘Run with confidence. Know that you’re good enough to run with these girls (the top runners)…’” said Perez-Segnini. “His coaching helped me grow a lot as a person and an athlete, and I’m so grateful for that.”

On January 9th, the boys 4 x 800m relay team of Brad Squarek, John Goldzser, Thiago Hammes, and Cian Galligan qualified for nationals as well.

Rachael Adelson, Cate McWilliam, Pippa Emms, and Elena Perez-Segnini after setting the school record in the 4 x 800m relay. Photo from Lohud.

In response to Yedowitz’s death, the community has come together to remember his dedication to coaching and profound impact on the hundreds of athletes he worked with over the years. Thousands of people attended Yedowitz’s wake and funeral, which were held in his hometown of Yonkers on January 7th and 8th. At the League Meet on January 13th, athletes from Rye wore purple ribbons to honor Coach Yedowitz and his battle with pancreatic cancer. The resilience and optimism he displayed despite his illnesses truly embodied the phrase, “run through the line,” which he commonly told athletes during practice and races. Until the very end, Yedowitz kept coaching and doing what he loved most—metaphorically, he ran straight through the line, never slowing down or giving up.

Special thanks to Anne Yedowitz for her role in the production of this article.

For more about Coach Yedowitz, click here.