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Kevin Hieronymus

Former Tigers stay connected as track coaches

Alex Hartz and Evan Holschbach had some pretty fast times running track together at Princeton High School and Augustana College. Track has been the connection to tie the two fast friends together.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knew them that both would be working as head track and field coaches at such a young age.

Holschbach took over as head coach at United Township High School in East Moline in 2013. Hartz followed him into the head coaching circles as head coach at Rockton Hononegah last July.

Both 2005 PHS grads who took part in school and Bureau County records in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, have found equal success coaching. Hartz’ Indians recently won the NIC-10 championship and Holschbach’s Panthers won the WB6. Their two teams met on the track last week in the Northern Illinois Invitational with Hononegah taking first and UT fifth.

Hartz, who served as best man for Holschbach’s wedding, said it’s nice to have such a good friend to turn to.

“He’s been a head coach for a year longer than I have, so it’s been nice to have a friend that I can talk to about training or coaching our runners,” Hartz said. “Whenever we talk, the topic of track is inevitable, and I appreciate having a friend in the business that I can turn to.”

Both credit their experiences running track at PHS under former coach Don Carlson and at Augustana for their inspiration to coach track. However, both really never thought about coaching track until they got hired as math teachers at their respective schools.

Holschbach said it seemed like his predecessor, former longtime UT head coach Bob Feller, “knew I was going to be his new assistant before I did.” Holschbach coached on the UT staff that included Feller and two retired volunteers with a collective century of experience.

“Becoming the head coach was a pretty organic transition, though I don’t think I necessarily foresaw myself in that position until it was offered,” Holschbach said. “With a group of committed, talented friends on the team (at PHS), it was hard not to enjoy those years. My experience at Augie was much the same, though magnified by the longer season, more trying workouts, subsequently greater successes, and all throughout hours spent with a quality group of guys.”

Hartz was in a similar position at Hononegah where he served as a volunteer assistant for four years. He succeeded former head coach Tom Polaski, who was head coach for 28 seasons and left big shoes to fill with eight conference and seven sectional championships.

“I had great experiences in high school with our team at PHS. Our whole team was a tight-knit group of friends who really enjoyed running and working out together from the start, and there was a lot of contagious enthusiasm about seeing your friends get a new personal best or set a new record or medal in a big meet,” Hartz said.

“Augie was the same way; the coaches and athletes all thoroughly enjoyed the sport, and it made it that much more fun to travel and compete with such high-caliber athletes who were also high-caliber people.

“There were also tremendous influences from coaches Don Carlson at PHS and Paul Olsen at Augie. I really admired and respected them and wanted to perpetuate the knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport that they instilled in me.”

Holschbach said he considers himself, and is sure Hartz would agree, “quite lucky to be in the position I am in.”

Both coaches will take their teams into sectional competition Friday at different 3A sites.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.