Lecanto coach braces for final season
By DAWN REISS
Published August 17, 2006
LECANTO - For years, Dan Epstein's name has been synonymous with success at Lecanto.
In the past nine years, his girls cross country teams have won eight district titles. Last year, his boys track team earned a long-awaited district title.
But Epstein's coaching era is ending.
Epstein recently became a Crystal River Middle School dean, a job he starts Monday. As a result, he no longer will be Lecanto's boys track coach and will step down as the Panthers girls cross country coach after this season.
"It's a good career move," said Epstein, who has worked as a Lecanto Primary teacher since 2000. "Yet I'm torn. I don't want to give the coaching position up at Lecanto."
Epstein said it was a mutual decision between him and the administration because he no longer will work on Lecanto's campus.
It is easier, Epstein said, to fill out eligibility paperwork, coordinate fundraisers, make travel arrangements for meets and run an effective practice while on campus.
"It is hard being a head coach and not being on campus," said Epstein, who was offered the position Aug. 4. "I understand why it needs to be like this."
While many of the track athletes were disappointed they won't have another season with Epstein, the girls were happy they could enjoy one last season with him.
Known for his lightheartedness, Epstein actively recruited anyone in the community to start running. As an avid marathoner, Epstein also knew the importance of keeping the sport fun.
He set up running scavenger hunts and all-running games, such as tag, to keep things interesting. On birthdays, he baked cakes for his athletes and rewarded long workouts with popsicles. At meets, he was never at the finish line, choosing instead to run and cheer. During the summer, Epstein, his cross country athletes and their parents would rent a cabin in North Carolina for a week of running.
"He's a fun coach," senior Taylor Cooke said. "He tries to reward us and keep it upbeat so that we like to go running."
Senior Carolyn Bonadonna said Ep-stein was instrumental in getting her to run cross country in high school, convincing her parents she could handle being a drum major and runner.
"He's very accommodating with two-sport athletes," said senior Jillian Swartz, who also swims in the fall. "He understands."
Prior to coaching at Lecanto, Epstein, 42, was an assistant coach at Crystal River. Epstein said he plans to help the track program at Crystal River Middle and earn his certification to become a track official.
"Coaching is what I do," Epstein said.
"I've always enjoyed high school sports, but maybe that section of my life is over."
[Last modified August 17, 2006, 07:03:36]
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