Cross country community mourns loss of Coach Bunny Schmidt

Former cross country coach Bonita “Bunny” Schmidt embraces teacher and former Baldwin runner Natalie Grattan. Schmidt passed away on Sunday.

History teacher Natalie Grattan ran cross country as a student at Baldwin for Coach Bonita “Bunny” Schmidt, and they forged a friendship that lasted for years. 

“She came to see me when I had a baby,” Grattan said. “She was just authentic because what you saw was what you got. She was kind and thoughtful.” 

Because of those kinds of long-lasting connections, the Baldwin cross country community is mourning Schmidt’s death on Sunday at age 70. She would have turned 71 on Thursday.

Schmidt, a Baldwin alum who coached here for 25 years, endured multiple battles with breast cancer and bone cancer. But throughout her struggles, she would always make an effort to be there for the runners, track and cross country Coach Rich Wright said. 

“She was the toughest woman I have ever met,” Wright said. 

Schmidt had two sons and five grandchildren. But she also became like family to many in Baldwin’s running community.

“She cared for my mother when she was sick,” Wright said. “They would have spaghetti nights.” 

Grattan said Schmidt’s kindness was far-reaching. 

“She cared for everyone. There was nobody who did not like Bunny Schmidt,” Grattan said. 

She has taught me that the little things matter and you must enjoy them as often as you can.

— Casey Conboy

Schmidt was a big contributor to the cross country program’s success at Baldwin.

“Everything was properly done because of her. She was the lifeline and brains of the program,” Wright said.

But she also knew how to have fun with the kids.

“She would ride the roller coasters with kids when they went on trips for tournaments,” Wright said.

Class of 2017 graduate Casey Conboy said Schmidt struck the perfect balance as a coach.

“She was a great coach because she knew when she needed to be tough on you and push you in a coaching manner, but she also knew when to be compassionate and treat you like a friend,” Conboy said. 

“Even though I was only coached by Bunny for a short time in the span of her lifetime, it has left an impact on me that I will never forget. She has taught me that things could always be worse; that you must always put a smile on your face because you never know what someone else is going through, and that a smile goes a long way,” he said. 

“She has taught me that the little things matter and you must enjoy them as often as you can. Most importantly, she showed me what it’s like to be a good person,” Conboy said. 

Class of 2022 graduate Dom Ditoro agreed.

“She made the team a team. She was like the glue,” Ditoro said. 

Senior Andrew Barret did not have Schmidt as a coach, but was well aware of her connection to the team.

“We ran our Pink Out race for her breast cancer every year, and she got to hand me my shirt every year I placed top 20,” he said. “She always gave me a hug after handing me it.” 

For so many in Baldwin’s running community, Schmidt made a difference.

“She is really going to be missed. She was a great person,” Grattan said. “Baldwin lost a great person.”