UWindsor’s Farewell To Dennis Fairall: A Canadian Coaching Legend

After 28 years at the helm of Lancers track and field UWindsor coaching legend Dennis Fairall will no longer lead the charge in defense of the another CIS championship. Fairall's dedication to excellence brought 25 CIS championships in track and cross country but his humility and professionalism further impacted the lives of generations of UWindsor student athletes. [Photo by // Edwin Tam]

by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor

The beginning of a new season in track and field brings a sad reminder to the entire Windsor Lancers Athletic Department.

As the annual Blue and Gold Inter-Squad Meet nears, the 2015 edition of the Lancers will be without head coach Dennis Fairall, who announced he took long term medical leave from the his role at the University of Windsor Oct. 29.

Lancers director of athletics Mike Havey said it was difficult to think of the Windsor Lancers without thinking of Dennis Fairall.

“Dennis is an iconic figure here at the University of Windsor and in the history of Lancer athletics,” Havey said. “He has been a model of class, humility and professionalism his entire career … he has been someone who has always put the team first. He has mentored generations of student-athletes, coaches and colleagues alike. We have all been made better because of his influence and leadership.””

A native of Tillsonburg, Ont. Fairall is one of the most decorated coaches in Canadian University history, having been honoured 65 times as the Canadian or Ontario coach of the year in both track and field and cross country.

Fairall’s winning ways were instilled in him as an athlete when was a member of Western’s gold medal 4-by-200 metre team at the 1975 OUA championships and began his coaching career in his hometown where he founded and was head coach of the Tillsonburg Legion Track Club in 1974. Fairall remained with the club until 1985 when he joined the University of Windsor and began to build the Lancers track club into the perennial powerhouse across Ontario and Canadian Universities.

In his 29 seasons at the helm of two Lancer sports, Fairall’s teams captured a total of 25 CIS cross country and track and field championships with 20 in track and field and five in cross country. Provincially, the Lancers also took home 46 Ontario University championships with 39 track and field titles and seven cross country crowns.

Fairall’s often told his athletes to work hard and to give everything you have for the team every time you stepped onto the field of competition. His fundamental stance that the team was bigger than the individual gave thousands of athletes the belief they could pull out their best from within themselves.

“It is important in sport to work together to achieve a common goal, similar to what the student-athletes will do upon graduation in the working world,” Fairall said. “Our program attempts to create an environment through dedication to training and an outstanding competition schedule to allow athletes to develop to the highest level possible.”

In addition to his University of Windsor coaching duties, Fairall has extensive international coaching experience which he will use during his long-term medical leave to volunteer coach elite athletes. Fairall began his international duty as the head coach of the 1985 and 1989 Canadian Maccabi Games entry in Israel and also served as head Coach of Team Canada at the 1989 World University Games team in Duisburg, West Germany and was also a member of Canada’s coaching staff at the 1995, 1997 and 1999 FISU Summer Games.

In 2005 Fairall served as head coach of Team Canada at the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships which were held in Windsor. The event drew thousands of the world’s best up-and-coming athletes to the Rose Ctiy and under his direction, Team Canada earned their highest medal count in the history of the event at the time.

This past summer, Fairall’s career hit a high point with a breakout performance for Lancer alumnus Melissa Bishop, who won a gold medal in the women’s 800-metre event at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Under Dennis’s direction, she also set a new Canadian record in the 800-metre in her silver medal run at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.

Fairall will continue to coach the star Canadian middle distance runner as she prepares for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Associate head coach Brett Lumley will continue his duties as the acting head coach of the Lancer track and field program for the remainder of the 2015-16 season. The men’s track field team are the defending CIS championship and will begin their national title defense at the St.Denis Centre when they pit teammate against teammate Dec. 7 and 8.

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