Dick Harmon: Eyestone explains goals for BYU track program
Like other sports, Eyestone’s squad has been impacted by the LDS Church policy to allow 18-year-old males to serve full-time missions. But he also recognizes one of BYU’s big advantages is quality walk-ons that fill out the Cougar depth in both women's and men’s programs.
“BYU is an amazing place to recruit to,” said Eyestone. “It is an amazing place, and I’m not just talking about the LDS athlete. We have so many things going academically, socially and all that BYU is, and that’s a good hook.
“Every university has its hook, and that (LDS culture) is one of the great hooks that BYU has," Eyestone continued. "It’s a blessing to come to work every day because of it. It means I don’t have as many distractions as some of my colleagues do trying to put out fires with various silly things that happen to 18- to 20-year-olds.”
Juggling scholarships, dividing scholarships, giving a particular coach a number of scholarships for his specialty, managing the comings and goings of missionaries, deciding on who will walk on and compete isn’t rocket science, says Eyestone.
“I’m not a rocket scientist, but I do love this sport. I’m passionate about this sport, and as good as we are and as good as we have been, we can be better.”
He’s sure of it.
“We have great athletes who want to be a part of this program and we’re lucky to have them,” he said.
On one wall in his office, he has a photo of himself standing alongside the late Paul Cummings and Doug Padilla. He says some student put it there because it shows him wearing a mullet and mustache and it was pasted there to make fun of him.
But that photo, if you add Henry Marsh, NCAA steeplechase champion and Olympian, represent a Mormon contingent of runners circa 1984 that were dominating on the national scene.
Will there ever be a year like that again in BYU track and field?
Yes, says Eyestone, and while they haven’t come all at once, folks saw that talent in the careers of Josh McAdams, Miles Batty and Josh Rohatinsky, to mention a few.
Eyestone sees great talent among LDS youths, but he’ll also focus on non-LDS who want the BYU experience.
I asked him why it seems there are so many Mormons who tend to excel in track and cross country.
“I think we’ve been blessed to have great coaching here at BYU and successful LDS athletes elsewhere,” he said. Using the right substances or avoiding harmful substances also helps.
“Track requires some positive enablers, and many from LDS homes have that built in, so it isn’t a surprise that LDS athletes are typically dedicated, goal-setting and goal-oriented individuals who come with background and heritage and faith. There are some from other faiths who excel and want and believe they can make a great contribution to our team, and we will seek them wherever they are.”
Eyestone came to BYU in 2000, when he was named the head men’s cross country coach and an assistant men’s track coach working with the distance runners. Eyestone has led the Cougar cross country program to nine conference titles, 11 top-three finishes at the Mountain Region Championships and four top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships, including a fourth-place finish in 2011 and a sixth-place finish in 2012. He has also coached nine All-Americans who have earned 13 citations and an individual national title.
As the men’s track distance coach, Eyestone’s athletes have earned 34 All-America citations, four individual national titles and one distance medley relay national title. In cross country, he has coached nine All-Americans who have earned 13 citations and an individual title.
A 10-time All-American in college, Eyestone captured the 1984 individual NCAA and cross country championship and won the 10,000 meters at the 1984 and 1985 NCAA championships while adding the 5,000 meter NCAA title in 1985.
So, if there’s ever been a guy who knows how to move something from Point A to Point B, according to the laws of physics, Eyestone may be the one.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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