“You’re only as good as the people you compete against. We had to work harder because we were the smallest school in the county.”
Dave Hanson parlayed that common-sense philosophy into an ultra-successful 32-year coaching and administrative career at Nanuet. After graduating from Ithaca College, Hanson joined the Nanuet athletic staff in the fall of 1962 and proceeded to build a track and field dynasty during his 20-year coaching reign (1963-1982) in that sport.
Treating the school’s modest enrollment and consequently its smaller pool of athletes as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, Hanson laid a foundation of organization, structure and well-rounded balance that underpinned all of his teams’ later prosperity.
In his third season as varsity spring track coach- 1965 Nanuet captured the Rockland County Public School Athletic League championship. It would be the first of eight such titles under his watch: four Rockland County meet crowns (1973, 1975, 1976, 1978) and four Rockland PSAL dual-meet titles (1965, 1968, 1969, 1970).
The County meet became an officially scored meet in 1972. Along the way Hanson guided the Golden Knights to eight Section 9 Class B banners (1969 though 1975, 1978) as well as a 29-meet unbeaten streak from 1967 to 1969.
Buoyed by the same exacting degree of organization and structure that was his trademark, the winter track and cross country programs enjoyed a similar level of success. Hanson served as the program’s first winter track coach, from 1967 to 1982. During that period, he steered Nanuet to eight Rockland County championshipsÑfour County meet titles (1974 through 1976, 1978) and four Rockland PSAL flags (1968-69, 1972-73). The County meet in winter track was begun in 1974. He also piloted the Golden Knights to seven Section 9 Class B championships: 1965, 1970 through 1973, 1975 and 1978.
In cross country, for which he was head coach from 1974 to 1982 and again in 1993-94, his 1974 team won the inaugural New York State Federation championship and also finished third in the Eastern States championships.
His 1994 girls’ team won the Section 1 Class C title and the League III-A title, and finished fourth in the New York State meet. His 1994 boys’ team won the Section 1 Class C crown and the League III-A banner, and his 1993 girls’ team won the League III-A title.
Aside from winning the state Federation championship in cross country, two accomplishments stand out in Hanson’s bulging portfolio of success: In the 1974-75 school year, his cross country, winter track and spring track teams earned a collective No. 1 ranking in New York State for combined three-season achievement. The cross country team was ranked No. 3 statewide, the winter track team was rated No. 2, and the spring track team was ranked No. 5. That spring track squad, incidentally, was chosen as one of the top five Rockland scholastic teams from 1960 to 1985 in a vote of Journal-News readers.
He coached 13 New York State champions in spring track, winter track and cross country:Paul Nowicki, 880-yard run, 1970; two-mile relay, 1973 (Mike Borghard, John Hammeran, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Nowicki); Federation cross country team, 1974; Don Berich, 55-meter hurdles, 1975; Bret Watzka, Class B cross country, 1975; Tony Harlin, shot put, 1976; Rick Carey, high jump, winter 1977, winter 1978 and spring 1978; Stan Thomas, pole vault, 1979; Greg Mooney, Intersectional medley relay, 1979; 3,200-meter relay, 1980 (Bill Possidento, Brad Klock, Gene Sostre, Mike Unterkofler); Erin Haugh, Class C cross country, 1994.
Hanson never kept track of his dual-meet wins and losses, but he estimates that his teams won about 75 percent of their meets, roughly 170 to 180 wins and 70 to 75 losses. His career was not, however, about only victories and defeats. He played a major role in the development of track and field in Rockland County and Section 9. Hanson was co-founder and longtime meet director of the Nanuet Relays, which was begun in 1968 and is one of the oldest invitationals in the New York metropolitan area.
As Nanuet athletic director from 1983 to 1986, Hanson oversaw an athletic program that collectively won eight league titles, two Sectional crowns, one County title and one state Regional championship. He also launched the girlsÕ lacrosse program in 1986; served as varsity golf coach for several years in the late 1980s/early 1990s; and was assistant cross country coach from 19 9 0 to 1992. The 1990 girlsÕ cross country team (head-coached by Larry Beckerle and assisted by Hanson) won the New York State Class C title and finished second in the state Federation c h a m p i o n s h i p .
Hanson has been a certified track official since 1965, and a USA Track & Field (USATF) certified official since 1978. He has worked many local, regional, national and international events, including the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta; three World Association of Veteran Athletes championshipsÑ1993 in Buffalo, 1999 in Gateshead, England, and 2001 in Brisbane, Australia; the 1999 Goodwill Games in Uniondale, Long Island; the New York City Marathon three times in the mid-1970s; and many NCAA and USATF championship events.
Hanson, a 65-year-old native of Norwich, N.Y., is a charter member of the Nanuet High School Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2002. He currently resides in Murrells Inlet, S.C., with his wife of 40 years, Sandy. The Hansons have two married daughters: Kim Hanson Smith, 34, and Erika Hanson, 31, both of whom were standout field-hockey goalies for Nanuet.