Boone Dixon was not a competitive runner during his time as a student-athlete at Maryville, but he did his fair share while playing soccer for former Maryville coach John Kerr.
“We always joked that he ran more miles than I did even though I was on the cross country team,” Sarah Dixon, Boone’s wife, told The Daily Times.
Boone Dixon went on to run many more miles in the years that followed.
He picked it up as a way of exercising while studying history at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, and was a natural, qualifying for the Boston Marathon in his first marathon in Copenhagen shortly after graduating from college.
His passion for running was superseded by his desire to impact the lives of students on the track and in the classroom, which he did every day as a social studies teacher at Maryville Junior High School and an assistant coach for the Maryville High School cross country team and MJHS track team until he passed away May 21.
“We always kind of referred to running as his way to have a positive influence on the lives of others,” Sarah Dixon said. “He wanted to use that platform to show kids that people other than their parents care and are watching out for their best interest.”
Boone Dixon volunteered for the cross country program when Landon Harris took over and became the obvious choice to step into the vacated assistant coaching position two years later because of the enthusiasm he showcased for the sport and the runners.
The synergy between Boone Dixon and Harris was evident from the beginning. Harris said it was not a good-coach-bad-coach scenario, but he knew he could push runners a little more because they would respond to Boone Dixon’s constant encouragement as he ran alongside them.
“The legacy started when we were both starting to coach at Maryville, and it got built into that first team, and they have just passed that down for years,” Harris said. “There has been a great team atmosphere from the beginning, and it all comes from this positive attitude that we’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it together.”
It is a testament to the way Boone Dixon got the best out of his student-athletes because of the relationships he was able to build with them throughout the years.
Maryville Junior High School track coach Jay Malone knows that better than anybody.
A year ago, the Rebels entered the final race of the state championship meet needing a strong finish from a 4x400-meter boys’ relay team that was seeded near the bottom of the pack. Boone Dixon provided the motivation for a top-5 finish that broke a school record and gave MJHS the state championship by one point.
“He is somebody that when he talks to a kid or a kid talks to him, he would intently look at them in the eyes and listen,” Malone said. “I don’t know of any kid that wasn’t comfortable around him, and I credit a lot of that to his listening skills and his own way of encouraging kids.”
Boone Dixon was described as “zen until the gun went off,” an ode to the constant yelling that bellowed from the man who was usually “cool, calm and collected.”
The latter version of Boone Dixon was on display as he trained with the Rebels before meets. He discussed sports, school and life during long runs and made himself available for any student-athlete that needed somebody to talk to.
“I know they really enjoyed those conversations,” Sarah Dixon said.
The impact Boone Dixon had on the programs and athletes he coached has been evident in the last week and a half.
A group of former and current runners all gathered in the front yard of the Dixon’s house the day after he passed away. Another mowed their lawn.
Malone has given Sarah Dixon some gifts, one of which was a baton because Boone Dixon would always need one right before a race and Malone would have to keep extras in his back pocket.
Those memories can no longer be created, but they are tokens of the lasting impression Boone Dixon left with those he ran with.
“I’ll never be able to replace Boone Dixon because of his creative and unique style of his coaching and his attention to detail,” Malone said.
“I could provide the meat and potatoes, but he had the spices,” Harris added. “He always had that little something extra and always had a different way of looking at things.
“His view of the world was immense compared to some of these teenagers who have never been outside of Maryville, and that always allowed him to have a multi-dimensional point of view. He always brought something else to the table.”