FanPost

A Texas Tech Alum's name on the Westlake HS Track Complex

I came across this article in the Austin American-Statesman and thought I would share it. The article is in regards to Coach Mark Hurst, who is a Texas Tech Alum and was an assistant coach for the Westlake Chaps Football team and the coach for the Track team.

The article is about the tough fight Hurst has had with various cancers and the Eanes ISD renaming the track stadium to honor this wonderful man.

His determination to be a great coach and mentor to his players and his determination to not let cancer win just reminds me of the times we have said how great the people who go to Texas Tech and live their lives and "Strive for honor evermore." Coach Mark Hurst is the epitome of being "Fearless."

Bohls: Westlake honors Hurst - teacher, coach, shaper of lives

By Kirk Bohls - American-Statesman

They named the track stadium after him.

They could have just as fittingly named the entire high school.

Mark Hurst was, has been and still is the very embodiment of Westlake High School, and plans to be for the foreseeable future as he continues his yearlong battle with Stage 4 colon, lung and liver cancer. Since arriving in 1979, he's never sought another job because he's been content here winning football games and track meets and winning over young people.

It's why Justin Tucker called to wish him well on Christmas Day and showed up at Saturday's emotional ceremony to honor the man he knows "is a fighter." It's why Mary Sue Neptune - the widow of the late Ebbie Neptune, Hurst's mentor and close friend whose name adorns the football stadium - gave him the tanned La-Z-Boy recliner because he couldn't get comfortable anywhere else.

The 57-year-old coach and art teacher with the charismatic personality, uncommonly eclectic background and penchant for practical jokes has touched so many lives that they're now coming back in droves to return the favor. He did well to keep in check his emotions about what he called "a surreal" moment.

He's one of three Westbankers who have remained at the school that long, alongside French and German teachers Libby Lucero and Scott Gardner, and he's been on the sidelines for more Westlake football victories as the secondary/special teams coach than anyone else alive. Heck, the one time he missed a scrimmage, they couldn't even find the bag of footballs for practice.

His excuse for his absence? Oh, something minor like brain surgery after a series of epileptic seizures, including one when he was driving down MoPac. Did we mention he's tough?

"Mark was born to be a coach," said Austin mortgage banker Scott Norman, a former three-time all-state hurdler at Westlake and later at Texas. "Nobody at Westlake or Texas was more instrumental in me growing up than Mark."

‘It's been unbelievable'

Norman spearheaded the move to name Mark Hurst Track, a decision unanimously approved by the Eanes school board last month, and has been so helpful that Hurst's bubbly wife, Judy, calls Norman "the CEO of the Hurst family." Hurst never lost his pepper-dark hair during his 10-month treatment and three rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, nor his zest for life, for teaching. And that's the overpowering story of this universally beloved high school track and football coach because former Chaps baseball coach Howard Bushong said Hurst has been "so dedicated to the kids and the school. He's just a good guy."

"The people of Westlake are literally holding us up," said Judy, his wife of 22 years, who is herself a huge part of the community as a second-grade teacher at Forest Trail Elementary in West Lake Hills. "It's just heartwarming to me how many people love this person with their deeds and prayers. Somebody will leave dinner at the door or the football team will make a sign for Mark. It's been unbelievable."

As Al Bennett, the Chaps' wildly successful volleyball coach, kidded the ultimate kidder, "All these kids have come back and are saying such good things about you, this is better than if you died."

Hurst's nowhere close to dying. He continues his lifelong recovery from the insidious disease that was ravaging his body. One of his team of doctors told him recently, "Ten years ago if this had happened to you, we'd be talking months (to live). Now we're talking years."

One of a kind

They don't make 'em like Mark Hurst very often.

He got hired at Westlake, fresh out of Texas Tech, by football coach Bobby Etheridge and started coaching the Chaps' secondary. His first free safety? Two-time baseball All-Star Kelly Gruber.

He's a football coach who teaches art. He's done pencil drawings of every famous Westlake administrator, including one of Neptune, which hangs in the football press box - "my little gallery."

He's won a staggering 14 district championships in track - more than any other Westlake boys coach in any sport. He is loved and respected, even by former head football coach Ron Schroeder, who still remembers the time he was showering after a practice and Hurst crept in and fired off a track coach's starting pistol.

"I've never known a coach who taught art," said former Chaps head coach Derek Long, who chauffeurs Hurst to chemotherapy. "He has always had a good perspective. He has a way of relating to young people."

Long has had the lights turned out on him in the shower by Hurst, but once got Hurst back when he announced at a weightlifting session that it was Hurst's birthday. It wasn't.

"It became a tradition," Long said. "We always tell waiters it's Mark's birthday, and they'd bring him a cake. He's had about 15 birthday parties every year, so I guess that'd make him about 100."

Hurst hopes to actually make that 100th birthday. The prognosis is much better than it was a year ago. It began when he sought treatment for lower back pain last spring.

‘This was big bad'

On a Friday last April, Mark and Judy sat over lunch at Waterloo's next to Seton Medical Center Austin, trying to remain calm.

"I was expecting bad. But this was big bad," Hurst said. "They told me it had spread to other places."

Like his lungs and his liver. The next Monday, they visited oncologist Carlos Rubin de Celis, and that Friday he was in surgery. Radiation zapped a tumor the size of an orange from his colon. His radiologist, Tim Dzuik, a big John Wayne enthusiast with the Duke paraphernalia adorning his office walls, was so impressed with Hurst's fight that he gave him a plaque with a John Wayne saying: "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

Hurst remains in the saddle. He rapidly lost weight, shrinking to 130 pounds from a frame accustomed to carrying 190. He couldn't keep his wedding ring and his 1996 state championship ring from slipping off his fingers.

Hurst's pain got so intense, Long said, that it would be at a level 5 all the time. Then it would spike to a 10, "and that borders on the unbearable." Hurst would be in so much pain, he couldn't even speak.

He did have a major scare when a perforated ulcer caused him to start bleeding uncontrollably one fall morning. He could have easily bled out, had not Judy rushed him to the St. David's emergency room. In the three months that followed, the cancerous spots have shrunk, and the pain has become more manageable. Daughter Hillary, a sophomore at UT, has researched her dad's case as much as his doctors and calls him "a trooper," and Mark made her sister Abby's final volleyball game last fall.

‘It's going to get better'

Living with cancer is never easy, and it never strays far from the mind, if ever the body.

As the wife of a Garland football coach and former Chaps offensive coordinator Marc Cox told him, "You are in its grip. You are in this forever."

A nurse assisting with Hurst's chemotherapy had a son who played against the Chaps in football and told him, "You're a hero." Heather Hodes arranged a "meal train" among Hurst supporters and got so much response, food showed up at their home for more than three months. Former students in Hurst's ceramics class would Facebook-message him pictures of the pots they made in his class, and athletes who played for him constantly stop by the Hurst home to cheer him up. "It was like a reunion," Judy said.

So is life back to normal?

Not yet. Hurst still hopes to drive himself to Chaps track practices.

Once, when Judy was picking up a pain prescription, the pharmacist said she needed more doctor's documentation. She broke down and cried. A man, standing behind her, put a comforting hand on her shoulder and said, "It's going to get better."

The man never introduced himself, but Judy calls him "my guardian angel."

That's fitting, since Hurst has been one for countless hundreds himself.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Viva The Matadors' writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Viva The Matadors' writers or editors.</em>

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