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Published September 12 2011

North’s Mailloux making a difference

Fargo - Gary Mailloux always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. He wanted to be an exceptional person who did special things.

And the Fargo North High School boys cross country and track and field coach would have preferred to do it anonymously.

The problem with the last part is that it’s awfully difficult to stay under the radar when you’ve spent more than 40 years helping mold Spartan boys into men with this much passion, class and dignity.

Making a difference in people’s lives? Check. Staying anonymous? Didn’t happen.

“He’s a big deal in North Dakota,” North senior cross country runner Matt Wenzel said. “He’s a big name in the running community. People strive to be like Mr. Mailloux. He’s a good dude. I like him.”

Mailloux, 66, came to Fargo North when the school was in its infancy in 1969.

The West Fargo High School graduate was hired to be the Spartans’ head boys track and field coach. He became North’s boys cross country coach in 1975.

Mailloux has seen his share of great moments through the years.

However, none of them have to do with stopwatch times or titles. The Spartans have not won a state championship in boys track and field or boys cross country with Mailloux at the helm.

It’s more about the journey for Mailloux.

Sure, he wants his runners to give their all, do their best and try for victory.

But, more than anything, he wants his runners to have a great experience, and he wants them to learn about friendship, teamwork and life.

“It became my mission as a person,” said Mailloux, who also served as North’s activities director for 30 years until his retirement from that position in 2007. “Each of us has so much time to be around and to do things. I want to do as much as I can in the time I have to make a difference for people.”

Mailloux’s philosophy comes from an unexpected life in sports.

He suddenly became a track and field athlete as an 8th-grader when a coach asked him to attend a meet. Mailloux said he finished fourth out of four participants in the 880-yard run.

He qualified for the North Dakota state meet as a senior.

Mailloux went to Jamestown College not expecting to participate in sports.

Instead, he became a four-year letter winner in cross country, track and field and wrestling despite never before having wrestled or run cross country.

“My number one thought about Gary Mailloux is that he has a genuine, sincere compassion for every kid that crosses his path,” North activities director Troy Cody said.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about titles. It’s about guys looking back on their years with fondness. He his giving them to have tons of life-changing memories thought the venue of track and field and cross country.”

Mailloux said he hopes to continue coaching for several more years.

He’s still on a mission to be a positive influence in people’s lives.

“There are those who would suggest I should have been done a long time ago,” Mailloux said. “I don’t set out to kiss butt or say the right things. I know I serve at the pleasure of (Principal) Andy Dahlen and Troy Cody. When they are ready for me to not be there I won’t be there.”

Mailloux’s runners are certainly glad he’s still there, challenging them to win, pushing them to perform at their best and expecting results.

“He became one of my role models,” said North senior cross country runner Andy Walton. “The way he presents himself with a lot of pride makes me look up to him.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com