Dave Martin back to coach Huskies in XC, distance

Scott Swanson

Dave Martin has had success as a coach at pretty much every stop in his professional journey, starting when he was a student at Lane Community College, out of eligibility and asked by his coach if he’d like to help some of his former teammates.

Martin had been a cross-country runner and track athlete at LCC for two years, and he still had some classes to take before heading off to Oregon College of Education to complete his teaching degree.

“Al Tarpenning, who was the head coach there, asked me if I’d be interested in coaching distance runners during the spring. I got three of them to the national meet, one in the 1500, one in the 10K and one in the steeplechase.”

Martin has been hired by Athletic Director Dan Tow as Sweet Home’s new cross-country coach and he’s handling the distance runners this spring as part of Head Coach Nathan Whitfield’s staff.

“I’m just excited to have Dave coaching our kids,” Tow said. “He’s a top-notch distance guy and a top-notch guy all the way around. When I got the AD job, he’s a guy I thought of right away.

“He knows a lot. He’s good at motivating kids. He’s super enthusiastic about everything.”

Martin, 65, graduated from South Eugene High School in 1974, after being part of a “phenomenal program” there, a team that won four straight state titles during his high school years.

He finished sixth in state in cross-country as a senior, as that team also won the state championship.

Moving on to Lane, he finished 45th at the national meet as a sophomore, running the five-mile course in 24:36, his lifetime best for that distance. He then focused on the steeplechase at OCE (now Western Oregon University), with a lifetime best of 9:27 there.

“I was part of the last graduating class at OCE (before the name change),” he said, adding that he did “OK, but not like high school and junior college,” competing there he said.

Graduating in 1980, Martin landed a job as a cross-country coach and English teacher at Central Linn, in those days a larger school than it is today, he said.

“We always had full cross-country teams, but we weren’t amazing,” he said. “Apparently, (having full rostes) hadn’t been the case before I got there.”

In his second year, 1982, though, the Cobra boys took second at state.

That fall, Martin moved to Sweet Home, where he coached track under Alan Temple, then took over the cross-country team in 1985, continuing until 2000.

During that period, he had “10 or 11” boys teams and six girls teams qualify for state, the girls finishing sixth at one point.

“We didn’t have a huge soccer program in those days,” he said. “We always had full teams.”

The boys teams finished second, third, fourth and fifth at state during his time at the helm.

“The year we got second, Tillamook went 1-2-3,” Martin said, adding that there wasn’t much hope for a close second in a state meet with that kind of dominance.

Jessie Shra won Sweet Home’s only girls state cross-country title in 1993 under Martin’s tutelage, and although he didn’t have any boys champions, he had multiple runners finish in the top 10 – Jesse White, Manuel Robledo, Joe Olsen and others.

Incidentally, when Jakob Hiett became the first Sweet Home boy to win a state cross-country title, in 2014, he was coached by one of Martin’s alums, Andrew Allen.

“We had a lot of success with both programs,” Martin said, “but the boys had greater success.”

Martin left SHHS in 2000 and, after a short stint at Central Linn, took a teaching job at Klamath Union, where he started volunteering as an assistant, coaching jumpers and pole vaulters, with the track team.

That’s when he got an invitation to assist at Oregon Institute of Technology, coaching sprinters, long jumpers and triple jumpers.

Over the years his athletes had “something like 100 different marks on the all-time top-10 lists” for the school he said. “I still have kids who have school records in the triple jump, the long jump, the 400 and, possibly, the guys 200. Plus, we set a school record in the long relay – 3:16.”

The death of his wife Joanne in 2018 and other circumstances forced him to take a break from coaching until Tow asked him to consider the Sweet Home job. Martin is retired after 38 years as a high school English teacher and said he was eager to get back into coaching.

The Huskies’ cross-country program has had three coaches since Billy Snow retired in 2014 and the program experienced a sharp reduction in participation last year following the COVID shutdown.

When, last fall, Coach Kambria Schumacher, had to step down due to the COVID vaccination mandate, alum Nichole Rasmussen Wingo filled in for the final weeks of last season, during which the Huskies had four boys and two girls in the final tally, both short of the five runners needed to score as a team.

“We’ve kind of had a lot of turnover with distance coaches the last few years, and the stuff with COVID,” Tow said.

“A lot of kids in the track program have had a lot of different coaches, particularly the distance runners. It’s nice to get somebody in there with his experience and knowledge.”

Martin said he’ll be aiming to grow the program.

“I would like to have a full team both ways. I’ve never had less than seven kids on each side during any year I coached here.

“I’ll give Alan Temple credit for that. He did such a good job. Allen’s philosophy was that cross-country was a build-up for track season and although I see it as its own sport, the base was there from Alan.”