Doug Robinson: BYU's Ed Eyestone is in for the long run

Published: Tuesday, May 27 2014 3:50 p.m. MDT

BYU track coach Ed Eyestone sings spoof to 2012 team

“Coach Eyestone does uniquely well maximizing talent,” says Jon Kotter, a walk-on who was cut twice before making the team and going on to become one of the school’s fastest at 10,000 meters. “He takes kids who weren’t that great in high school and turns them into national-class runners.”

Undoubtedly such success led to a promotion last summer. After years of mulling the change, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, a former NFL player who is also a knowledgeable track fan, restructured the entire track and field program. He combined the men’s and women’s programs and appointed Eyestone as director of track and field, which means he will oversee the entire track program while also continuing to coach male distance runners. Other schools have combined their programs, largely because it has at least one advantage. Separate men’s and women’s teams are limited to three full-time coaches to cover sprints, distance running, hurdles, relays, jumping and throwing events. With the programs combined, they have six coaches who will work with both men and women.

Certainly the Eyestone name will carry some cachet for the team, which will aid recruiting. “Ed Eyestone is kind of a legend in running because he was so good for so long,” says Bob Wood, Eyestone’s former agent who has been a behind-the-scenes force in running circles for decades. “You say his name and almost everyone knows that one.”

Eyestone comes from an accomplished, educated and bright family. His parents, Bob and Virginia, earned post-graduate degrees. So did all five of their children, who excelled in school and won scholarships for writing, music, drama and athletics. As noted in the book, “Trials and Triumphs,” the Eyestone children went on to become singers, architects, actors, writers, musicians, beauty queens and runners.

The Eyestone name is the literal translation of the original German name “Augenstein.” Virginia’s ancestors were Mormon pioneers. Eyestone explains it as only a runner would: “My mom’s side all hoofed it across the plains. Most notably, Edward Shields Reid, who was born in Wales and came across the plains in 1861 at the age of 2, much of it astride his father Edward Reid’s shoulders. Apparently, the Reids are known for their endurance.”

Eyestone began running at the age of 13 in 1974 and, except for a two-year break he took to serve an LDS Church mission in Portugal, he didn’t stop racing until 2000, at the age of 39. Think of the mileage he has put on those legs: He averaged 60-70 miles a week in high school, 80-90 miles a week in college and 100 miles a week as a professional, taking only about three weeks off annually. That adds up to nearly 100,000 miles, not counting the less-intense training he did in junior high. If he had run in a straight line, he would have circled the earth four times.

There were 10 All-American citations, four NCAA championships, two Olympic berths, one world track championship, nine World Cross Country Championships and an American collegiate record for 10,000 meters. He was five times the U.S. Road Racer of the Year. He ranked among the top American marathoners for nine years and among the top 10,000-meter runners for eight. He won many of the nation's biggest road races — Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, Peach Tree in Atlanta, Lilac Bloomsday in Spokane and the Twin Cities Marathon. He was second in the Chicago Marathon, second in the Olympic trials marathon (twice), second in Bay to Breakers. He ran in virtually every country in Europe, as well as cities in Australia, the Far East, Russia, South America and Central America.

He competed professionally for about 15 years, running at a top level until he was nearly 40, a remarkable feat given the pounding a distance runner’s body takes. He had a shoe contract with Reebok that provided the financial stability to pursue the sport professionally and pick his races judiciously, which probably helped him remain healthy and prolong his career.

“I stretched it out for a while,” he says. “It was my life. I’ve never faulted anyone for competing past their prime. So what? If you can still do something better than 99 percent of the population, do it.”

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