Sports

Fulton steps down as track and field head coach at South Whidbey High School

Doug Fulton hits the track for one of his several weekly runs after school. After 13 years leading the track and field team at South Whidbey High School, he stepped down to become the distance assistant coach.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Doug Fulton hits the track for one of his several weekly runs after school. After 13 years leading the track and field team at South Whidbey High School, he stepped down to become the distance assistant coach.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Giving up the head coaching job for South Whidbey High School’s track and field team was far from easy for Doug Fulton.

After 13 years leading the program — sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners — Fulton hung up his hat as the head coach for Falcon track and field. In that time, the track and field team accumulated Cascade Conference titles for both boys and girls teams from 2000 to 2004, district championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and a 2A state boys team title in 2004.

“I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I’m getting old,” Fulton said.

“I was looking to eventually step down and assume a lesser role.”

He submitted his resignation in January. But he turned it in only after South Whidbey had a replacement. Scott Mauk, the school’s athletic director, only had to look around the hallway for Mark Eager, who was an assistant with Fulton for nine years until 2009.

“It just was the right time,” Fulton said. “We just swapped places.”

“I wouldn’t have left unless I knew there was someone capable to take over.”

This season, Fulton’s duties will be much like his position as head coach of cross country. He will coach the distance runners in the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races, where cross country meets are 5,000 meters.

Fulton, who jokingly said he is “old,” still practices with his teams. He runs the trails through the cold, wind and rain. His last timed two-mile time, a couple of years ago, clocked in at 11:26.

“I can still give the kids a run for their money,” he said.

Where running a couple miles is fun for Fulton, running the program became too cumbersome. As head coach he tried to corral students to turn out for the spring sport, encouraged them to stay active in the offseason, urged them to eat healthily during the season and checked in on development through the year.

“It takes a lot of time and energy, and I’ll have a little bit more free time to engage in some other things in life, like building a house and school,” Fulton said. “Mark’s got a lot of energy and he’s raring to go.”

Fulton is known for harping on students to avoid high sugar foods, soda and other “junk” food. Even so, his rules for healthy eating have limits.

“A good diet’s like being on steroids,” Fulton said. “We don’t want them to limit food, we want them to eat as much healthy food as possible.”

“I’ve been known to take them down to Dairy Queen after a practice or two for a treat, just not every day.”

Now classified as a 1A school, Fulton hoped Eager’s energy would spark a string of dominant seasons for the track program. Last year, only two Falcon athletes qualified for the 2A state meet: javelin thrower Nick French, now a junior, and thrower Angelina Berger, now a senior. In 2011, four Falcons qualified for the state championship meet. And in 2010, six Falcons represented South Whidbey.

“All the success we have had over the years is the product of the work put in by coaches Jack Terhar, Steve Jones, Jeff Greene, Mark Eager, Dean Hatt, Craig Stelling, Mike McInerny, the late Carl Westling, the wonderful athletes and their dedicated parents,” Fulton said. “I thank them all for allowing me to be a part of their lives.”

Even though he is no longer running the show, Fulton will still run through the trails of South Whidbey Community Park and keep pace with his athletes this spring.

“I love working with the kids,” he said. “Track is a great sport, and I’ll be involved all the way until I no longer can run.”

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