Another member of Emporia State’s athletic department moved on during the off-season this summer. Former track and field head coach David Harris left for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Harris spent 19 years at Emporia State before deciding to call it quits.
“I appreciate what this university and community has done for my wife, Kathy, and me over these 19 years,” Harris said in a press release. ”I personally have invested myself for almost two decades in running a respected program in the MIAA and NCAA Division II, and I feel good about what we have done.”
The legacy left by Harris will prove to be big shoes to fill. During almost two decades at ESU, Harris managed to be an 11-time MIAA coach of the year as well as a 2001 National coach of the year for Women’s Outdoor Track and Field. Harris also led the Women to an MIAA championship that year.
Former All-MIAA distance performer and assistant coach Eric Wellman will take over Harris’ duties as the cross country coach. Wellman will also serve as the assistant track and field coach.
“It caught me off guard,” Wellman said of Harris’ leaving. “I think we were all pretty surprised. I know that he kind of was looking for maybe one more challenge in his career. (We) definitely (weren’t) expecting it at the time that it occurred… but things opened up for him, and it was a great situation for him.”
Wellman ran for Emporia State from 2003-2008 where, among other accolades, he holds the fourth best time in ESU history in the mile run with a time of 4:08.85.
In addition, Steven Blocker will run the track and field teams. Blocker has served as an assistant coach with the Hornets since 2009 and ran for the University of Northern Iowa in college, as he was a member of three Missouri Valley Conference championship teams.
Blocker also served as an assistant coach at Santa Barbara City College in California before coming to ESU.
Senior cross country runner Asher Delmott noted Harris’ impact on the team.
“He was kind of like a father figure to the track team, just making sure that you’re always doing the right thing, whether it’s in sports or school,” Delmott said.
Despite the new faces for the track and field teams, Delmott sees the program heading in the right direction with Wellman and Blocker.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition just because (Wellman) has been an athlete here,” Delmott said. “As a graduate assistant, and now as a coach he knows how Coach Harris did it, and so it’s just been a smooth transition.”
ESU begins their cross country season with a home event at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 2. They also have a second home meet at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 30.