Robert Lurie has coached girls track at Waverly for 28 years, and saved his best for last.
Lurie stepped down after the Warriors ended 2014 as Division 2 state runner-up, the best finish in the program’s history.
Waverly compiled 31 points at the Division 2 state finals, just three behind state champion Remus Chippewa Hills, thanks in large part to winning both the 800- and 1,600-meter relays at the state meet.
But the Warriors didn’t know how well they were doing until the meet, and Lurie’s career, were over.
“The point totals were not being announced,” Lurie said. “At the end of the (1,600-meter) relay, we were like, ‘Oh, really?’ It was a great surprise for everybody. We had no clue.”
Lurie hesitates to take credit for the team’s success.
“The key is extremely talented kids, I don’t think there is any question about that,” he said. “The coaching part of this, to be honest, is pretty overrated. I’ve always said, the coach of the year is the one who had the best talent and didn’t screw it up. It all worked out. Some kids were hurt and others stepped up.”
But Lurie, along with assistants Todd Simon and John Langstaff, who work specifically with the sprinters, brought a team into the state finals that finished second in the CAAC Gold league meet and second in their regional, but used their depth to come within shouting distance of a state title.
“The depth of our sprinting group was pretty phenomenal,” Lurie said. “These kids are, competitively, extremely mature. Getting them ready was not too difficult, even when things weren’t going well it didn’t matter to them.”
Lurie will stay on as Waverly’s cross country coach, but has some academic ambitions as a teacher at Waverly that forced him to make the tough choice to give up the girls track program. He earned a fellowship with the Holocaust Museum in Washington, recently took a group of Waverly students on a World War II trip to Europe and participates in the U.S. State Department’s teacher exchange program which includes a learning experience in Costa Rica next spring.
“I love track and I love coaching, but there are other things that I’m interested in as well,” he said. “I was afraid at some point that I would resent coaching, because there are other things that I would like to do with my life also. I don’t want to look back and say that I should have done them.”
Lurie said that he has at least 10 years of teaching left in him. Both on and off the track, he has always been a teacher.
“Ultimately, it’s about using track and sports as a method to launch them into successful lives,” he said. “I know people who I’ve coached who are adults and are friends. I was instrumental in their development in some way, and that’s better than all the trophies and medals and coach of the year. It’s the most important thing to me.”