Longtime coach put ‘kids first’

Larry Lienemann, who died at 82, influenced young athletes at Heritage, Arapahoe

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The Littleton Public Schools district has lost an icon.

Larry Lienemann, a coaching icon at Heritage and Arapahoe high schools, passed away April 26 from complications from a March 2 surgery to remove a lump from his right lung. He was 82 years old and was married to his wife Lee Lienemann for 58 years.

His son, Stuart, is the head track coach at Arapahoe where Larry has been an assistant for the past 17 seasons.

No memorial service is planned. Anyone wanting to honor Larry Lienemann with a donation in his name is encouraged by his family to consider the Bratten Disease Support and Research Association or BDSRA at the following link: https:bdsra.org/donate.

Larry Lienemann was known for his catchphrases like “hey stud” and “you’re awesome” and “tell your parents I said hi.” And it is hard to forget his most used comment: “Keep smiling.”

The former basketball player and graduate at Dakota Wesleyan University moved to Colorado in 1972 to open Heritage High School. He was the head cross country and track coach for the Eagles. He was also an assistant basketball and golf coach during his 29 years as a coach and teacher at Heritage. He was the key reason in turning the Liberty Bell cross country meet into one of the largest meets in the state each fall.

Lienemann, a 2004 inductee into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, moved on to be an assistant track coach at Arapahoe under head coach and son Stuart.

“My best memories come from our time coaching at Arapahoe when he was my assistant coach,” said Stuart Lienemann. “We were lucky enough to get to coach my two kids, son Austin (2015) and daughter Logan (2019). We had eight straight years of three generations of Lienemanns walking the track together.”

Arapahoe Athletic Director Pat McCabe learned how popular Larry Lienemann was.

“Every time you would talk to somebody they would say: ‘How’s my good friend Larry Lienemann?’” recalled McCabe. “I am dumbfounded. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of folks who consider him a good friend.”

Littleton District Director of Secondary Education Clay Abla knew Larry Lienemann as a friend.

“I definitely knew Larry much more as a friend,” said Abla. “He’s one of those coaches that you really can’t quantify the impact on a countless number of kids he has impacted over his career. And anyplace I’ve been in my nine years, people knew who Larry was. I’ve never heard of anyone speak an unkind word except for respect for Larry. He always called me ‘boss’ but I think he called a lot of people ‘boss.’ … He was a standout coach around the state.”

Heritage Athletic Director Brock Becker always looked forward to running into Larry Lienemann.

“Larry was always welcoming and encouraging me when I came to LPS/Heritage,” said Becker. “He would always greet me with warmth and happiness when I would run into him at track meets or out in the community. He was such a positive person to have around student athletes and coaches at both Heritage and Arapahoe. He will be missed dearly.”

Also sharing fond memories of Lienemann was Colorado High School Activities Association Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green, who was a CHSAA assistant and associate commissioner from 1996 to 2012.

Blanford-Green recalls one of her first meetings with Lienemann: “When I came to CHSAA my first year and I was in charge of the state track meet, you have this checklist of all the things you are supposed to have,” she said. “Larry said he would help me with the shot put and discus. I forgot to bring the marking pen to mark a shot put or discus meet weigh. And he goes: ‘Do you have any fingernail polish in your car?’ I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘go get it.’ He used fingernail polish and we didn’t miss a beat. Hes was a mentor for me and a cheerleader for me in my professional growth with CHSAA.”

Blanford-Green’s husband, John Green, is the former track coach and district athletic director for Cherry Creek Schools and he also knew Lienemann well.

“I spent a lot of time with Larry in a variety of meets,” Green said. “With him it was always kids first and then coaches second. That’s the way it is supposed to be. Larry was always very fair and well respected for all the coaches so there was never any animosity.

“When Larry put on an event it was always for everybody, not one-sided or he didn’t take advantage of anybody. In his early days at Heritage High School you could always identify him by a stocking cap and a lollipop in his mouth.”

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