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updated: 5/14/2014 10:56 AM

Wurster surely made his mark at Prospect

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  • Prospect's girls track and field coach Dave Wurster works with his athletes during his final Mid-Suburban League meet last weekend at Wheeling.

       Prospect's girls track and field coach Dave Wurster works with his athletes during his final Mid-Suburban League meet last weekend at Wheeling.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

Prospect girls cross country and track coach Dave Wurster has given his passport quite the workout over the years.

Wurster has traveled the globe, going to four Olympics, various track and field World Championships, and other international track and field events.

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Needless to say he has had his share of stamps on his passport. But his most lasting imprint may be the one he's leaving with the Prospect girls running program.

Wurster has been the face of the Prospect girls track program for the last 30 years, and the cross country program for the last 18 years. But his long run will be coming to an end at the conclusion of this school year.

The man that has meticulously planned and orchestrated the Knights' program for the past three decades says he is looking forward to a schedule with lots of flexibility.

"I have some ideas what I might want to do, but really I don't have a plan," said Wurster. "I'm looking forward to some free time and I'm trying to keep it open."

A free schedule is a foreign concept to the Prospect coach that has elevated the Knights program to one of the elites in the state.

In track, Wurster has led Prospect to six Mid-Suburban League titles, 21 divisional titles, nine sectional titles, two top-10 state finishes and has coached 47 all-state athletes.

In cross country Wurster has had similar success, directing the Knights to two MSL titles,seven MSL East Division titles, five regional titles, a sectional title and five top-10 finishes at the state meet. Seven Prospect runners have earned all-state honors under his guidance.

So, how much has he meant to the Knights program?

"He has meant everything," said Pete Wintermute, who has been Wurster's assistant the past four years and will take over as cross country and track head coach next season. "He embodies what it means to be head coach. He is willing to give it all for every kid and every meet, and that will be the hardest thing to replace."

Wurster graduated from Antioch High School in 1976, where he was a four-year member of the football and track and field squads, and a three-year member of the basketball squad. He was inducted into the Antioch High School Hall of Fame last fall.

He then attended Eastern Illinois in Charleston, participating one year in football before graduating in 1980 with a degree in mathematics and physical education.

He had a couple of one-year stops at Thornton Fractional North, Schaumburg, and Arlington High School before settling in for a 30-year run at Prospect, where he taught mathematics and physical education.

During his career he also coached football, basketball, and baseball before settling in for long haul with track and cross country.

Wurster took over the Prospect track and field program in 1985 and became cross country head coach in 1996.

He has had plenty of memories during his stellar career, but the titles were just as important as watching a fringe athlete secure success with a personal best.

"So hard to say any one thing is bigger or better than the other," added Wurster of his long list of accomplishments. "Every team had its own memories and great moments. We were all in it together, whether a kid makes all-state or the one who is trying to get a p.r."

Brooke Wolfe, a 2013 graduate, is one of the athletes Wurster made a mark with. Wolfe was a three-time IHSA all-state cross country runner and also was a three time all-state runner for the 3,200 relay team in track.

"When you leave you don't realize how lucky you were to have a coach like him," said Wolfe, who now runs for Missouri. "He was just as concerned in developing the person as he was in developing the athlete. He wanted you to do the right thing."

Wurster also had the same influence on his assistant coaches, many who went on to head coaching careers -- including Mike Theodosakis, a 1988 Prospect graduate.

Wurster was Theodosakis' freshman football coach. Theodosakis then he became an assistant on the Knights track program for nine years, from 1994-2002, before becoming Wheeling's girls track head coach from 2005-2013.

"He pulled me into coaching and got me going," said Theodosakis. "He had a huge influence and I learned so much from him. He had his ways, but they were the right ways. He made it fun for the girls, and he was so consistent in his approach."

Hersey cross country and track coach Jim Miks was also a member of Wurster's staff in 2001.

"He coaches from the heart," Miks said. "He contemplates how to help kids reach their athletic and civic capacity more than any coach or teacher that I know. There is not a program in the MSL that has not somehow improved because of Dave's influence, either as a mentor or a competitor."

One thing that is learned by being around the Prospect program is that it is basically a family, and Wurster has led that unit for 30 years.

"I learned that as a freshman and was taught by the seniors," Wolfe said. "We had a little sister program, we had group meetings, individual meetings. The whole team was much intertwined."

"Those were the best nine years," said Theodosakis of his time at Prospect. "You felt part of something. It felt like family."

Last week Prospect just missed its third consecutive MSL title last Friday finishing in second place with 137.5 points behind Barrington (140 points).

Now Wurster is bracing for his final lap, and it begins Thursday night the Wheaton Warrenville South sectional. It will finish on May 23 and 24 at the state meet in Charleston.

From his contribution as head coach, to working with the youths in Prospect track summer camp, to participating in the Illinois Track Cross Country Coaches Association, volunteering at the Chicago Marathon with the cross country team, to following former Knight athletes, his passion for the sport runs deep. And it has been felt at Prospect by a man affectionately called "Moose."

"Moose is the brains of the program and it is his passion for the sport that is contagious," Wintermute said. "We all see how hard he works and know there is always a little bit more that we can do a little bit better and do a little more. He provides the hope and the love of the game that we all look for."

The memories like the titles and all-state honors are numerous, and have left a significant imprint on the Prospect program. Wurster would prefer to be remembered for other things.

"I guess I'd like to be remembered as I worked really hard," Wurster said. "I had a passion about the athletes and the sport, and hopefully made an impact on a lot of their lives."

And that is one stamp that will be hard to erase.

• Prospect will honor Wurster on this Saturday at the high school between 4 and 7 p.m with a retirement party in the school cafeteria. All former teammates, classmates, coaches, family, and friends are welcomed to attend and are urged to share favorite memories of him by adding pictures or letters to add to his scrapbook. There will be a large pig roast at 5 p.m. For more information please contact Michele Burnett (Maxwell) at micheleburnett@d214.org, Lisa Kollias (Bootz) at lisa.kollias@d214.org or Meagan Chapman (Wadas) at mwadas2004@yahoo.com.

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