In Matt Osborne’s third year as the Centerville boys track and field coach, the team motto was “Just win one.”
The first came with a share with Union City.
The following year, it was “Go for Two,” and that second one came by a comfortable 44-point margin.
And “The threepeat” was the one that almost didn’t happen.
But it did. And 14 years later, the streak still lives.
Thirteen straight Tri-Eastern Conference boys track and field titles have made their way to Centerville, and former coaches Osborne and assistant Bob Crowe played steady roles in that.
If the Bulldogs’ streak continues, it’ll be under a new leadership.
Osborne and Crowe have retired from coaching the Centerville track and field team, but the duo added to a legacy.
Crowe, a 1968 Centerville graduate, helped the Bulldogs win the program’s first TEC title as a senior.
That total now sits at 27 titles .
Osborne, a Winchester High School graduate, played just football in high school.
Both followed an unconventional route to coaching.
“It’s kind of a funny story, I did not run track or cross country, I did just run to just stay in shape,” Osborne said. “My first job interview they asked me my hobbies, I said ‘I jog to stay in shape,’ next thing you know, they’re offering me a teaching job as long as I also coached cross country and track.”
Osborne coached junior high track and cross country at both junior high and varsity levels at Tri-West from 1994-96.
Crowe’s passion stemmed from his father and uncle’s success in the sport and he remembers his first time watching a state track and field meet in the early 1960s.
He tried out for the track team as a sprinter during his freshman year.
“I wasn’t good enough to be a really great sprinter,” he said. “I competed as a freshman. Finally my sophomore year my coach said, ‘Hey Crowe, we’ve got some pretty good sprinters, why don’t you try those hurdles?’
“By the time I ended my sophomore year, I turned out to be as good as the senior on varsity.”
Crowe won the high hurdles in the TEC tournament during his junior and senior years, with the latter leading the Bulldogs to the team championship.
Centerville also won TEC titles in 1970, 1971, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 before an 11-year drought.
And in 2001, the Bulldogs broke that drought by edging Union City 135-129 in the TEC tournament. They shared the title after the Indians won the regular-season TEC title.
In 2002, Centerville scored 150 points to Winchester’s 106. In 2003, it was a little bit closer: Centerville 158, Winchester 154.
“That meet stands out in my mind more than any,” Crowe said. “I always remember that meet for nothing else it was a night of the full eclipse of the full moon. We were at Hagerstown, I’m pretty interested in astronomy and here the moon is eclipsing, we’re behind most that meet and we ended up pulling it out at the end.
“We didn’t realize then that was going to be the third of 13 in a row, but that one stood out as much as any to me.”
One key was going out to search for Centerville athletes to compete in track.
“I used to basically, on my own go and look at junior high kids in other sports,” Crowe said. “I watched their track meets, too, but kids that were in basketball or football, you could tell they were really great athletes … we went after them. A lot of years they’d do basketball and football and didn’t do anything in the spring. If I knew a kid or two and he wasn’t doing anything I would go out and introduce myself.”
Crowe would also communicate with Osborne, a life sciences teacher at Centerville, about kids he thought who could help the team.
Since 2001, the Bulldogs have a record of 451-60, 212-3 against TEC opponents and won a sectional title in 2008.
One of those TEC losses came in 2001. The other two came in 2013 against Lincoln.
The Golden Eagles ended a 12-year reign for the Bulldogs in the Hagerstown Tiger Booster Invitational, about a week before the TEC tournament.
The TEC streak could be in jeopardy.
Lincoln led for a long time that night.
Final score: Centerville 128.5, Lincoln 120. Thirteen, it was.
“You never know. That’s the thing about the track program that we built, it just kind of became self-reinforcing,” Osborne said. “With every year, there became more of a vested interest in keeping that streak going. It developed this inertia that just kept kids coming out year after year.”
Among other things, it was time for Osborne and Crowe to step down.
And for Osborne, family played a big role. His son, Jevon Osborne, is a freshman distance runner for Hagerstown. Two younger children are middle school age.
“Over the years I’ve become a big fan of the sport, I like to see all the area kids do well,” coach Osborne said.
“Whenever we would get to the sectional, all of the local TEC coaches were just rooting for local kids to make it to the regional. … I think I’ll be happy no matter what way the pendulum swings.”