NEW PALESTINE — Ed Marcum told his wife, Becky, that it was just another win, but it ended up being a lot more.

Marcum had celebrated a lot of wins over the years and last Saturday in a doubleheader sweep at Jennings County, the 20-year New Palestine head softball coach commemorated No. 500.

“As we were going along I told my wife it was just another win, but it ended up being a pretty emotional day for me,” Marcum said.

It’s taken only 20 years to get there, an amazing feat when you consider softball teams usually play somewhere between 25-30 games a season. Marcum has an amazing 501-73 overall record. He is one of only two active coaches with 500 or more wins [Pat Lockyear of Castle has 652]. He has more state titles [6] than any Indiana coach and only Center Grove High School [7] has more championships than the Dragons.

Marcum’s daughters, Alyssa Dillard and Michelle Hokl are two of his assistant coaches. Becky, too, made the trip down to Southern Indiana for the milestone moment. Marcum thought all three would be staying close to home as both Alyssa and Michelle had children playing ball Saturday, too.

“I told my wife and daughters to go to their kids’ games,” he said. “I didn’t think they were going to come, but they said they didn’t want to miss it.”

His team surprised him, too, as soon as he got out of the handshake line after win No. 500.

“I turned around [and the players] had the ‘500’ balloon,” Marcum said. “They were so excited and the smiles on their faces, it really meant a lot to me.”

Later that evening he got a chance to watch a special video of congratulatory messages from current and former players — some going back to his first season of coaching — and friends of the program. There were around 60 different videos making for an emotional night for the longtime coach.

It all started as a head coach in 2004, the Dragons first of six state championship teams. He was an assistant coach for two years prior. Under then-head coach Pete Cook, New Palestine was state runner-up in 2003. The Dragons have since won back-to-back titles in 2008-09 and three in a row from 2017-19. The 2009 and 2018 teams both went 30-1. The 2017 team won 31 games and lost only two.

Marcum gives a lot of credit to Cook and then-athletic director Mike Huey for putting him in the position he is in now.

“New Pal had never really done anything in softball, and I remember Pete, the first call-out meeting, talking about winning a state championship. I even asked him afterward, ‘Why would you talk about that? We’ve never really had that type of success,’” Marcum recalled. “He said you’ve got to aim big. You’ve got to make sure the team understands their potential. There are a lot of teams that might be out of the ordinary or not attainable, but he believed that’s what he had in mind for the team.

“And when I became head coach, we had finished state runner-up the year before in Pete’s second year, I tried to continue that and put my own spin on things. I felt like he laid the groundwork and I just continued and every year since then we’ve talked about winning a state title. That’s our ultimate goal. I always think you have to have some breaks along the way and things have to go your way. We’ve been blessed with great players and that’s what I want our goal to be.”

Marcum said Huey really “stuck his neck out for me” to get the head coaching job. “I owe him everything as far as the opportunity to coach at New Palestine.”

Marcum said Saturday was a big day for him to reflect on the last 20 years, the former players, coaches, victories and added he has no plans on getting out of the time-consuming job of coaching. As long as his health is good and he’s still having fun, he plans on coaching.

He joked that his wife told him he’d be out there coaching with a walker.

Winning a state title this year is certainly not out of the Dragons reach either. They’ve spent much of the year ranked in the Class 4A poll and are currently rated No. 3 with a 13-1 record. There are a lot of challenges ahead, but that’ll always be the goal for his Dragons.

“It’s hard and takes a lot of time and I’m one that dives in totally,” Marcum said. “At night time I’m going through different things. It’s tough and time-consuming. …I still love it. I love the players, and I love [trying] to make them the best they can possibly be. It’s really enjoyable.”

Marcum added, “I think players work so hard on individual skills. That’s one of the fun things when they get to high school is taking players with that individual talent and molding a great team out of those individual skills, and finding the right place for them to be.

“I always felt my main goal was teach them the game the way it is supposed to be played and the wins will follow. Fortunately they have.”