He was cut from the baseball team and turned to track and field in middle school. Now he’s being inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 in Salt Lake City.
BYU men’s cross country head coach Ed Eyestone is among a prestigious group of five athletes being inducted this year. He said the best part about winning this honor is those who made it possible: a supportive family, coaches, mentors, classmates, teammates and athletic trainers. He also recognizes the feat it actually is to meet all of the strict requirements for induction.
“Let’s face it, the state of Utah has had a lot of great athletes come through, and so to be recognized by your peers is humbling,” Eyestone said. “To think that you’re kind of in that same category as a John Stockton or Karl Malone in your own sport is very humbling.”
President of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation Evan Excell said that this was the first time that Eyestone had been nominated. He added that Eyestone is highly thought of and that the foundation couldn’t be happier with the selection.
Eyestone’s personal running career was increasingly successful. Through the help of a great mentor and parents who were supportive without being overbearing, Eyestone found that he got better as the race distances grew longer.
Eyestone won four national championships at BYU — two in 1984 and two in 1985. He also was a 10-time All-American, an academic All-American and a recipient of the NCAA Top Six Award and holds four school records.
Following BYU, Eyestone landed a contract with Reebok and ran professionally from 1985-2000. During those years, he was a two-time Olympian, ranked in the top 10 of U.S. 10,000-meter runners for eight years and the top 10 of U.S. marathoners for nine years. He was also a five-time U.S. Road Runner of the Year award winner.
Despite a wildly successful running career, Eyestone knew there was something more after his professional running days were over.
“When I was probably in my early 30s, I was thinking, ‘OK, you’ve been (running professionally), when the time comes to hang it up, what are you going to do after that?’” Eyestone said. “I felt like I had learned a lot of things about running up until that point and felt like coaching would be, actually, a really great fit.”
A conversation Eyestone had with his head coach while a student athlete at BYU has stuck in the back of his mind throughout his professional career.
“I remember coming in and talking to the head coach back then and asking him about his career choice and he said ‘(Coaching) isn’t a career that you will get fabulously rich in, but there are amazing opportunities in terms of working with young people, and the experiences you get are priceless,’” Eyestone said.
Eyestone has had those “priceless experiences” with athletes whether or not they won national championships, and those athletes have reciprocated the love shown by their coach.
The 2006 NCAA men’s cross country national champion Josh Rohatinsky said Eyestone was one of the biggest reasons he committed to BYU.
“For me, just having someone as my coach that had been there and done that, that had done basically everything that I wanted to do definitely (helped),” Rohatinsky said. “(It’s nice) to know that you have someone coaching you and basically say, ‘This is what I did to succeed, so why shouldn’t it work with you, too?’”
That complete trust in his coach helped Rohatinsky focus on winning the national title.
What 2011 NCAA mile champion and NCAA mile record holder Miles Batty loves most about his former coach is his willingness to work with the his athletes and help put them in positions where they were capable of succeeding.
“He allowed me to have input in my schedule and how I was feeling,” Batty said. “He always listened to me and would change the plan according to what we felt was needed, whether that was more speed, more endurance, etc.”
In addition to working with his athletes, Eyestone emphasizes the importance of them having a vision for themselves. Such is the case with the 2006 NCAA 3000-meter steeplechase champion Josh McAdams. About two weeks before McAdams’ national championship, Eyestone called McAdams and told him to plan on winning nationals — a thought that hadn’t occurred to McAdams yet, but was one that was certainly within reach.
“Obviously, you put in the work, but you get to a point where your coach believes you can, and you can,” McAdams said. “He knows his athletes.”
Coach Eyestone has won the respect and care of his athletes over his career, something he sees as one of his greatest accomplishments.
“The one component that I would hope my athletes get from my relationship with them is that I care about how they do,” Eyestone said. “I care when they have good performances and when they have bad performances. I want to see them having good performances because I care.”