Mark G. Gartner ’84
Track & Field Coach
Inducted in 2019
In 1990, when Mark Gartner ’84 returned to Peddie to teach physics and math and to coach track and field under his mentor, Bob “Bullet” Lawson, he was fulfilling a youthfully idealistic pact that Coach Lawson wouldn’t retire until Gartner or one of his Peddie teammates returned to take the reins. Gartner may have been the only one who took that pact seriously, and he took it very seriously.
At that time, Peddie had had only three track and field coaches in its 84-year history: John Plant, George Weed and Bob Lawson. Anyone who knows their Peddie history recognizes that that’s quite a legacy. Gartner continued the tradition of commitment, excellence and dedication to his sport and his student-athletes for the next 23 years as head coach of winter and spring track (for boys and girls) – that’s 92 teams! When he “retired” in 2014, he didn’t step away from coaching; he moved to the side. In those subsequent years, Gartner has continued coaching the winter and spring track teams, now in support of his long-time colleagues, Tim Brennan and Michael Stewart ’83.
Gartner would say that his career 427 meet wins were nothing more than talented athletes coming around in the right combinations at the right times. Many of those talented runners, jumpers and throwers might beg to differ. Those athletes all know that Coach Gartner has a gift for getting the most out of a student-athlete. He can take a premier athlete and make them better, still with plenty of potential to continue to grow through college. He can take an average athlete and bring them to championship status and college athletics that they never previously considered. He can take a reluctant participant and help them find their way to a love of sport and the discovery of personal grit and and untapped strength.
Under Gartner’s coaching, Peddie’s track teams won six Prep A, three Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and one Mercer County team titles. They won three Penn Relay 4 x 400m races. They won individual golds at Prep A, MAPL, Mercer County, Eastern States, the 5th Avenue Mile, and High School Nationals. Scores of Peddie tracksters have gone on to compete with distinction in college. All that being said, Gartner’s greatest coaching joy is that so many of his athletes are now teachers, coaches, deans and heads of school, carrying on the legacy of teaching and fostering young student-athletes. He would still say he was just here “when the wheel came ’round.” More accurately, he and his teams were mutually formative, bringing out the greatness in one another.
Mark Gartner’s success stems from his absolute dedication to his school and his teams – in, on and beyond the classroom and track. He has lived as a part of the legacy of the Peddie track and field coaching greats: John Plant (1907-1926), George Weed (1927-1956), Bob “Bullet” Lawson (1957-1990) and Mark Gartner (1990-2014).