Longtime Oakland Mills football and track and field coach Sam Singleton passed away from a heart attack on Aug. 31. He was 68.
In the days since, the Howard County community has rallied together to pay their respects and share memories about the impact that he had on their lives.
A candle-lighting ceremony was held Monday night on the track at Oakland Mills High School and nearly the entire home side bleachers were filled.
“He’d have a huge smile on his face. He’d have hugs for everybody,” said Bryan Winfield, who coached track at Oakland Mills from 1991 until 2012 and football from 1990 until 2002 alongside Singleton. “He was loved. He was loved in this community, he was a pillar on this community. Oakland Mills would not be the same place it is without him, without his accolades, without his work ethic. He was a weight room instructor here, so he was responsible for pretty much all the good teams we had around the school.”
Singleton was the first football and track and field coach at Reservoir High School in 2002 and 2003, but he made his greatest impact on the indoor and outdoor track and field programs at Oakland Mills.
The Scorpions boys won indoor track state championships in 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 and finished second in 1995 and 1998. He also led the program’s outdoor track team to state titles in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002. He was an assistant football coach for Oakland Mills’ only state championship team in 1998.
Winfield said he will never go to a track meet and not think of Singleton.
“That was my guy. I saw him everyday,” Winfield said. “I’ll miss his smile, his personality, his genuine care for people, his hug, his handshake. He gave it to you straight.”
Phil Lang, a 1985 Oakland Mills graduate and the current cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field coach at the school, first met Singleton in 1995 when he took over the cross country program.
“It was amazing how he worked with people,” Lang said. “He welcomed Vicki and I in and we were family from Day 1. It really truly was the way he was. He supported me and my thoughts and whatever I was trying to throw out there. ... He made it about what’s important and what’s right.”
Lang said Singleton’s legacy was already great when he returned in 1995.
“When I returned 10 years after a I had left, trust me, you knew who Sam Singleton was,” he said. “A good running program had been started and then he threw gas on the fire. It was just amazing how successful it was for so long and incredibly dominant for some time. Some of the state meets we went to, the amount of points we scored was ridiculous and won more events than any team should.
“We all need good mentors in our life, we need people who care about you, people who want to encourage you to be better people and he did that.”
Here’s a snapshot look at some of the things those he touched during his coaching career (coaches, athletes and parents) are saying:
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports