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By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

The outgoing Eastern Oregon University track and field coach said his new coaching job is what he wants.

"It will be a challenge, and it will be good," John Spatz said.

Spatz accepted the head track and field and cross country coaching job at Northwest Nazarene University.

This NCAA Division II track and field program will challenge Spatz.

"Taking that first step has been pretty tough," he said.

"It's been a difficult choice to decide what to do, feels like what we are supposed to do. We're going to step on faith."

Spatz said the Eastern track program is "just on the verge of being great." He added that it will take "a year or two to build" NNU into a strong program.

He said he has looked at the NNU program for long time.

"I always thought they had potential to develop into a great program," he said.

His friend, Randy Dalzell, resigned his position at NNU and called Spatz right before the Fourth of July to tell him about the vacancy. Dalzell will coach at Bend High School.

Spatz said he had interviews on the 9th, and he got hired soon after.

Familiar faces will be joining Spatz at NNU. Recent EOU graduates Ben Gall and Leah Merrell will be assisting Spatz.

Gall will work with the distance runners and Merrell, an 11-time All-American, will coach the throwers.

Eastern athletic director Rob Cashell said the college will make an announcement next week on its plans and directions to fill Spatz's vacancy.

Cashell said he does not want lag time between coaches, because it is important for incoming students and returning students to know the coach.

Cashell wishes Spatz the best.

"I'm happy for him and his family," he said. "He'll do a tremendous job at Northwest Nazarene."

Spatz has taken "close to 200" students to nationals in his 15 years as coach.

Spatz said he hopes he has left a mark on the Eastern program.

"Hopefully, the work I've done is springboarding them to the next level of success," he said.

Spatz needs to be in Nampa by Aug. 5 or 6, since official practice begins on the 12th.

"Exciting time, little scary, challenging to step up and do that," he said.

Spatz promises to visit La Grande again.

"We'll be back in La Grande more often than not," he said.

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