May 27, 2002 11:00 pm

OLATHE, Kan. — The NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships was an exciting venue, but the plane ride back home brought some fears.

Eastern assistant track coach Pat McCurry was hospitalized after falling ill on the plane before it left Kansas.

"Little bit exhaustion and not enough fluids in him," Eastern head coach John Spatz said. "It's a stressful deal to be there and having your athletes run."

Spatz said McCurry hyperventilated and went into shock just as the plane was backing away from the gate.

The plane stopped as security and medical personnel came on board.

Spatz said McCurry was taken to a hospital for three hours, received an IV and was rehydrated.

"I was real glad our head trainer, April Box, was there with us," he said.

A couple hours later, the athletes and coaches boarded another flight but because of mechanical problems, they arrived home around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night.

"Doctor said he would be fine," Spatz said.

Spatz said McCurry has been eating and getting more fluids since arriving home.

"He should recover fully within a day or two," he said. "He should be OK."

Spatz said it felt good to be home.

"It's good to be back in La Grande," he said. "Kansas was a little bit flat."

In regards to the championship meet, Spatz is proud of the athletes, even though the planning and preparing is centered on one chance on one day.

"One shot to do it," he said. "They either do it or don't on that one day."

Spatz said many of them will learn from their experience.

"It's a learning experience, he said. "Getting that national experience under their belt. Learning lessons from what they did."

For instance, Shawn Trimble pole vaulted in the NCAA Division III national meet in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday and then competed in the NAIA pole vault Saturday.

Trimble picked up All-American honors at the NCAA III meet but was ninth at the NAIA. The top six in each event earn All-American honors.

Spatz said that it's tough to be one place one day and hop on a plane the next day to compete.

"It was a gamble," he said. "We took a chance. I'm glad we did. I think, if knowing Shawn, the kind of jumper he is, we'd do it tomorrow. I don't think we'd do it any different."

Spatz also spoke about other accomplishments.

"I'm really proud of our team this year," he said noting the 11 — combined from indoor and outdoor — performance All-Americans.

"That's the most we've had in a single year," Spatz said. "Definitely can't be disappointed with that."

Eric Griffiths and Dave Terry picked up Scholar Athlete All-American honors.

Each recipient must have above a 3.5 GPA, be a junior and qualify for the national championships either in the indoor or outdoor.

Terry has a 3.56 and ran in the 1,500 meters. Griffiths has a 3.9 GPA and ran the 10K.