ANTIOCH – Mike Hurd needs no introduction, at least, to most Antioch alumni. Nor would he necessarily want one. When it comes to the current students, however, even the current track and field roster who “have never heard of that guy in their life,” an introduction wouldn’t hurt.
The history of Antioch’s track and field program cannot be talked about without bringing up Hurd and the Panthers’ dynasty of the 1970s.
Now, when you walk into Eells Stadium at Antioch High School, you’ll see his name and his program’s legacy cemented throughout the Mike Hurd Track at Eells Stadium in name and on a plaque planted by the tree just behind its gates.
“I was shocked because it’s never been about me,” Hurd said. “It’s always been about the athletes and my coaches and that sort of thing. I got plenty of recognition as a head coach, and I didn’t need to go out and find any more. So the idea that somebody would think to do this was more shocking than anything else.”
In between rainstorms, a dedication ceremony was held on Wednesday, March 29. Several alumni were on hand for the event and told their stories with and about Hurd with numerous other alumni, family, and friends throughout the stands. The rain moved the event from the track itself to the gym. However, the rain stopped just in time for the official unveiling at the stadium entrance.
“It’s very humbling,” Hurd said. “This is not something I would have ever campaigned for, and the thought that there were people that thought highly enough to put all of the work that’s taken to do this, I just feel really blessed. My feelings are somewhat between embarrassment and humble.”
Louie Rocha, the former principal at Antioch High School and the current coordinator of the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame, was a sprinter under Hurd’s guidance in the late 1970s towards the end of the Panthers’ dynasty run. He told his story about how he and his relay team, all football players at Antioch at the time, would show up to events where they were bigger than everyone else and would surprise the entire event because they knew how to run and exchange handoffs better than the competition.
“He had the knowledge and the know-how to build not only a team, but individuals to fit into that team,” Rocha said. “He always had a way of letting us know how to get the most out of our ability and how to do it as a member of a team. That’s how it resulted in so many championships.”
Hurd’s impact on the track program goes further than just results. On the track, he led the Panthers “B” teams to five then-Diablo Valley Athletic League titles in the early ‘70s, including a three-peat from 1974-76. He guided the varsity team to five championships as well, including a pair of back-to-back titles twice – in 1973 and 1974, and 1976 and 1977 – along with a title in 1979. The 1973 championship was the first DVAL championship in program history.
“I knew I wanted to coach, and the opportunity to come back here. It was just a matter that I said ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right,’” Hurd said.
Under Hurd’s guidance in the ‘70s, the Panther’s track and field program never finished below second in the DVAL and amassed a 68-10-1 record, defeating rival Pittsburg in eight out of nine years.
“It’s well deserved,” Rocha said. “When you think about those 10 years, he accomplished all of those championships, it’s pretty amazing.”
Hurd grew the team from a mere 30-athlete roster to more than 120. He was one of the first few coaches to include a girls side in 1973, and later on incorporated them with the boys programs to make one entire program, much like that of today. He had nine relay teams and 60 individual athletes and assistant coaches remain on Antioch’s all-time top 10 lists as of 2010.
Off the track, Hurd created and was the meet director for the Antioch High Chuck Stapleton Relays for eight years, naming it for the Antioch athlete and long-time booster. He also organized the Hershel Miles Cross-Country Jamboree from 1976-78, named after the late distance runner and booster and the great-uncle to pro baseball player and Antioch native Aaron Miles.
Hurd’s impact was felt by everyone he either coached or worked with. Along with those he named some of Antioch’s biggest track and field events after, Rocha felt it the most.
“The experiences that we had back then as youth under his leadership, it was a family,” Rocha said. “What he did for all of us was give us the opportunity to compete and excel and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
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