The Press Newspaper
Coach Gary White inducted into Ohio Hall of Fame
Coach White led the program from 1988 to 2011, and throughout his tenure his teams won 13 league titles, five district championships, two regional championships, two state runners-up finishes, and two state champion titles.
“Our track programs do more than just wins championships. There is a tremendous synergy between the coaches in those programs and all of our other athletic teams. There is a positive energy throughout the program and perhaps that is Coach White’s greatest legacy,” Supt. Brent Welker wrote in his community email.
Building a championship-caliber track and field team in the Suburban Lakes League wasn't going to happen overnight. White was a junior high track coach at Lakota for three years prior to taking over at Eastwood.
White, now in his mid-50s, stepped down as the Eagles' coach after 24 years, but he always figured he'd be a head football coach. He'd been an assistant football coach at Lakota, and later at Eastwood, but watching former Lakota track coach Myron Cline mold the Raiders into perennial SLL contenders rubbed off on White more than he anticipated.
It took a decade for the Eagles to finally win an SLL title under White. And when they finally grabbed hold of the league trophy, they weren't willing to give it up.
Eastwood won its first SLL track title in 1997, then during White’s final 14 years as Eastwood’s head coach, the Eagles won 13 championships.
“We'd been working for it for four or five years and we felt we had an up-and-coming program,” White told The Press. “We thought (an SLL title) was the ultimate. To unseat Lakota in the SLL was the ultimate feeling.”
Eastwood turned into a monster in head-to-head competition. The Eagles lost just two SLL dual or triangular meets from 1996 to 2011, and their overall record under White was an astounding 177-38-2.
After placing second at the Division II state meet in 2003 and 2008, Eastwood finally broke through in 2009. The Eagles claimed the D-II state championship and repeated in 2010. They finished 12th in Columbus his final season.
“Part of that (first state) trophy went to all those guys who built the program to that point,” White said. “Those guys way back when tried really hard, but we didn't have the focus and emphasis at that time. We were just trying to win league titles. Then we were thinking about winning district titles, and the next progression was winning a regional meet. We won one of those and then it just kind of fed off itself.
“In 2009 we were thinking, wow, these kids from Eastwood are getting the statewide recognition they deserved and we thought it was a long time coming. It's tough at the state level. You have to really get after it.”
White's first event state champion was the 4x800 relay team of Jamie Kuhlman, Doug Russell, Aaron Lahman and Ryan Schroeder, which took first place in 2002. Russell, Schroeder and Lahman teamed with Jimmy O'Brien to repeat as 4x800 state champs the following year.
Eastwood won seven more event state titles from then until his retirement. Justin Welch, a 2010 Eastwood graduate who went on to throw at the University of Georgia, accumulated four state titles and held the D-II state meet record in the shot put and the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium record in the discus.
White, who has taught math and computers at Eastwood for 35 years, plans to retire at the end of this school year.
One of the team’s members is Kylee Ault, a former Clay state qualifying gymnast who was not a cheerleader in high school.
“I knew this team was willing to work hard and accomplish our goal,” said BGSU coach Anne Marie King. “We strive to improve each year as a program and winning the national championship was the next step in our success.”
The Falcons' top finish at the annual competition in Orlando, Fla., is the highest a Mid-American Conference school has ever placed. It is the fifth consecutive year the BGSU squad has placed in the top five in the country. Last year the squad finished second, losing to Hofstra University by just 0.7 points.
“I have never been part of a team with so much determination and heart,” said Katie Begin, a junior from Dearborn, Mich. “Our team goal was to hit a clean routine and we did that. I'm so proud to say I am a Bowling Green Falcon.”
The team was ranked third after the semifinal round where they competed against 21 top programs in their division including Purdue, San Diego State, Rutgers, Colorado State, George Mason, Syracuse and Hofstra.
“This has been such an amazing experience,” said Drew Ashby-King, a freshman from Auckland, New Zealand. “As a team we put in so much hard work in and out of practice and it paid off.”
The university’s all-girl cheer squad and the dance team also competed in the event. The all-girl squad placed ninth in the semifinals in their division. The dance team placed in the top 20 in Jazz in Division 1A.
The event will air on ESPN later this spring.