Ocie Trimble’s passion for running allowed him to make a memorable impression as an athlete and a coach.
The Cedar Rapids native’s contributions won’t easily be matched.
Trimble, a standout runner and speedskater, who coached Cornell College to multiple Midwest Conference titles, died Monday at the Solon Care Center after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 81.
Former Cornell Athletics Director Steve Miller hired Trimble to replace him as the Rams’ track and cross country coach in 1982. He coached at the school until 1997, .
“He was just a tremendous person, but he was the best track guy I’ve ever been around,” Miller said. “he asked a lot of his people, but he knew what their potential was and he didn’t want anybody to not have a chance to reach that potential.”
Many of his athletes reached high levels, including 19 All-Americans that produced nine Midwest Conference championship teams. Trimble coached 16 All-Americans in men’s track, including Ronnie Hendred, a Cedar Rapids standout who won a 1985 indoor national championship in the 55 meters, and three in men’s cross country.
The Rams swept Midwest Conference men’s indoor and outdoor meet titles in 1988 and 1989. The women’s cross country team added conference team crowns in 1982, 1987 and 1988.
Miller said Trimble was a “taskmaster” with a “soft side” and his athletes respected him. The key to be successful under Trimble was to pay attention to what he said and execute. It didn’t matter what distance an athlete raced.
“He could coach anybody,” Miller said. “The kids really appreciated his way with them and his expertise. I think he got the most out of everybody.
“The kids really believed in him that way. They really loved him.”
Trimble was a decorated competitor at Cedar Rapids Roosevelt High School. He captured Class A and Drake Relays state titles in the one-mile run in 1948 and 1949.
Trimble teamed with Stan Patrick and Richard Wise to lead Roosevelt to the 1948 Class A cross country team championship. Trimble pulled off the sweep, winning the individual championship of the 1.9-mile contest 10:13.
Bill Quinby, a local sports authority and former National Football League official, attended a crosstown high school at the same time. He said Trimble is one of the best track/skating athletes Cedar Rapids ever produced.
“Ocie was a real gentleman,” said Quinby, noting that Cedar Rapids had strong outdoor skating talent during that time. “He was a true competitor. He was a good athlete.”
Trimble continued his running career at the University of Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture in 1954 before joining the Air Force. He was a three-time letterwinner for the Fightin’ Illini. He was a miler and ran distance events for three straight Big Ten indoor and outdoor championship teams from 1951-53. Illinois finished second in the 1953 NCAA Championships, placing seventh in 1952.
Speedskating was another passion. He was a world-class speedskater, qualifying for the 1964 Olympic Trials.
He remained active for decades, winning Drake Relays Masters 80o titles in 1977 and 1979. Miller recalled Trimble, a longtime pharmaceutical sales rep, running well 60′s and speedskating at 70, when he won five gold medals in the national outdoor speedskating championships.
“He was up there,” Miller said. “He was in fantastic shape.”
Trimble’s son, Matt, is a member of the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame. The 1985 graduate set six distance records, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in the 1,500 meters. Matt Trimble, a 1978 Class AA state runner-up in cross country for Iowa City High, was an All-American in cross country and named MVP of the Rams’ track team in 1983. He was one of three children, which included siblings, Mark and Natalie.
In 2004, he remained involved in coaching, helping at an area speedskating club, while teaching at Kirkwood Community College.
“He was a real contributor to youth sports,” Quinby said. “He had a lot of talent in track and field, cross country and skating.”