By Tim Tutor/Pontotoc Progress
The man who started the Pontotoc High powerlifting team and led them to nation-wide acclaim has passed away. Coach Kenneth Robert Nowicki touched the lives of many during his time on earth.
Not many understood his ability to reach and teach student athletes better than Coaches Dennis Robbins and William Stewart.
When Coach Nowicki left the PHS powerlifting program, Coach Dennis Robbins took it over.
“I think it was around the 1998-99 season,” Coach Robbins, now the head powerlifting coach at Lafayette High in Oxford, said, while noting his deep concern for the Nowicki family.
“The biggest thing about Ken was him as a person. He was a Godly person and a family person.
“I thought a lot of him as a man and he did a great job of coaching and teaching and he was very well respected.
“He was a super person to be around. Even now when I would see him round, and I saw him not long ago at the elementary school (in Pontotoc) and he asked me how powerlifting was going.
“I will miss him and I just hurt for his family.”
“The news has been kind of shocking, to say the least,” said William Stewart a former lifter for Coach Nowicki at PHS and now an assistant football and powerlifting coach at Charleston High.
According to Coach Stewart, Nowicki started a string of six straight State Powerlifting Championship teams at PHS that Coach Robbins completed.
“I remember Coach Nowicki walking up and down the halls at the high school looking for recruits when the program was rumored to be discontinued if the numbers didn’t rise,” Stewart recollected.
“We basically went from just nothing to a world recognized program in a little ole town.”
Coach Stewart, who was part of that rise to fame from 1994 to 1997 as a lifter, said there were three or four student athletes, including himself, from the team that were selected, along with Coach Nowick and two other coaches, to participate in the Junior World Olympics.
“In 1996, we won that Junior Olympics,” Stewart recalled. “In 1997, we won the State Championship and the National Championship in Orlando, Florida.”
In 1998, the Warriors won another National Champion-ship in Boston after William had already graduated, “but I was able to go back with them because of my age. I was still only 18 at the time.
Coach Stewart said there may not be enough ink in a pen to write down just how much Coach Nowicki has meant to him and many others over the years.
“The lives he touched was unbelievable,” Stewart said, while noting Murray State, Auburn, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State and Mississippi Valley State, just to name a few, all benefited from Coach Nowick’s lifters who participated in their college programs.
“Coach Nowicki started recruiting us in the ninth or tenth grade and he encouraged us to take his chemistry class.
“Well, not many of us were interested in chemistry, but every one of us who did as he suggested found it helped prepare us for college.
“If it hadn’t been for him, there’s probably no way I would have ever played football at Mississippi Valley State.”