FOR LOVE OF COACHING
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Glancing near the finish lines at the Eastern Oregon indoor and outdoor track meets this season, one might notice three familiar faces and a newcomer.
Talia Welch, wife of head coach Ben, former Eastern runner Pat McCurry, Dee Harrison and former Elgin High School track coach Tim Troutman have been assisting the head coach during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Talia rejoins the Mountaineer staff as the men's and women's jumps/sprints coach. She was an assistant coach in those events for Eastern from 1990-95 under former coaches Gary Feasel and John Spatz.
She was an assistant at La Grande High School during the 1998 and 1999 seasons in jumps and sprints.
"There's a lot more emphasis on building a team instead of individuals," she said about returning to Eastern.
Talia enjoys working with the college athletes.
"They compete a lot more," she said. "They are more aware of their own abilities. They're fairly well-developed."
Talia and Ben have three children, ages 11, 6 and 2. Talia quit coaching and stayed at home after her second child was born. La Grande was looking for a coach, so she decided to apply in 1998. Then, after her third child was born, she quit coaching.
However, former head coach Spatz (jump/sprints) left Eastern for Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, last summer.
Husband Ben was at a loss and Talia felt she was ready to come back.
"I wanted to (coach)," she said. "I was ready to come back."
Talia was a two-time NAIA All-American in the heptathlon in 1988 and 1989 at Eastern.
She currently holds three school records: 200 meters (25.35 seconds), 100 hurdles (15.54) and heptathlon (4,934 points).
Troutman coached at Elgin for 10 years.
He coached two-time All-American Shawn Trimble in high school. Trimble still holds the 2A state boys pole vault record (15 feet).
In addition, four of Troutman's girl pole vaulters at Elgin have cleared 10 feet four times in the past five years.
"I wanted to have the opportunity (to coach) at national meets," Troutman said.
Troutman misses the high school atmosphere but really enjoys working with the college athletes.
He said the college students are more mature athletes.
"All (Eastern) athletes are non-scholarships," Troutman said. "They're really pretty dedicated to what they're doing. It's pretty refreshing working with kids like that."
He added the Mountaineers have competed against elite athletes at larger meets.
"We've been right there with them," he said about the pole vault competitions. "It's pretty cool."
Troutman also said it is nice that Eastern is a dual affiliate.
"You get to go to the NAIA national meet and NCAA," he said. "There aren't too many schools that get to do that."
The NCAA Division III meet is non-scholarship, although the NAIA meet is scholarship and non-scholarship, so Eastern is able to compete in both national meets.
McCurry was the Cascade Collegiate Conference cross country champion in 1999 and 2000 in the 5,000-meter run for Eastern.
He currently holds positions in the top five at Eastern in the 3,000; 5,000; and 10,000-meter runs.
McCurry coached at Powder Valley for a season after assisting for four years. He helped coach the Badgers to four state championships in track and field and more than 20 individual state championships.
McCurry, who graduated from Eastern in 2000, runs for Nike Portland. He has a shot at running in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
He wanted to work with college athletes one-on-one.
"I like to see them improve," he said. "I like to figure out ways to help them improve some more."
McCurry said he enjoys coaching, although organization is not one of his favorite things.
Just by accident
Harrison, new to Eastern's track program, might not have made it to La Grande except for a drive he made from the Tri-Cities.
He recalled seeing the Eastern campus for the first time.
"I didn't know it was here," he said.
Harrison dropped off his resum and former coach Spatz called him up and he interviewed for the position.
"I didn't know about Eastern or anything," he said.
His decision came down to Portland State University and Eastern Oregon. He chose Eastern.
Harrison coached the tight ends for the Mountaineer football program this past fall.
He is the throws coach this season for track.
Harrison said it is hectic with two sports, so he will not assist with football next season.
"I got a good group of kids coming in," he said. "They're good throwers."
Harrison was a two-time NJCAA performance All-American in the shot put at the two-year Ricks Junior College (now BYU-Idaho).