By McKibben Jackinsky
For the Homer News
For Bill Steyer, running is a passion. Look up any running event in Homer in the last decade and Steyer is frequently listed as a participating athlete. For the past seven years, he has inspired runners through his role as Homer High School’s track and field and cross country coach.
Now Steyer is moving on. He and his wife, Dr. Judith Steyer, are in the process of relocating to Eugene, Ore.
“We were ready for a change,” said Steyer. His wife has already begun practicing at a clinic in the Eugene area and Steyer has plans to help coach at Sheldon High School. Located in Eugene, the school has an enrollment of about 1,500 students, a cross country team of 100 and a track team of 130.
His last year as HHS coach ends with a Region 3A championship for the Mariner girls and a second place for the boys. (See related story, page 12.) The Mariners have racked up numerous other wins under Steyer’s coaching. Extending training beyond the school year, he ran the Kachemak Bay Running Club’s summer youth running program and has taken interested students to the Steens Mountain High Altitude Running Camp in Oregon.
In November 2014, Steyer suffered a hip injury while hiking with his wife in Nepal. Following surgery, he was required to keep weight off his hip for three months, used crutches to maneuver and went through extensive physical therapy. That was only a temporary slow-down, however, and Steyer was soon back to coaching.
In January 2015, he was named Alaska’s girls cross country coach by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The honor recognized that “high school coaches have a profound impact on young athletes’ lives. … For so many runners, their high school cross country coach is the person who opened the world of running to them,” Sam Seemes, USTFCCA’s chief executive officer, said in a press release at the time.
Proving that point, three of this year’s graduating Homer High seniors have signed to run in college beginning next fall: Lauren Evarts for Utah State, Megan Pitzman for Eastern Washington and Audrey Rosencrans for the Academy of Arts in San Francisco, Calif.
Ian Pitzman had high praise for Steyer and the impact he has had on Pitzman’s daughter, Megan.
“Bill’s unique combination of infectious enthusiasm for running, his technical instruction and support have made Megan’s four years as one of his athletes extraordinary,” said Ian Pitzman.
Megan Pitzman credited Steyer with helping her build confidence as a runner.
“He really helped me progress over the years, to get to where I feel good enough that I’ll be capable to run in college and compete with the high caliber athletes,” she said.
Evarts, who has been coached by Steyer throughout her four years at Homer High, said Steyer’s passion for coaching has definitely affected the team.
“A lot of times it can be hard for someone, especially a freshman, to made the change from middle school athletics, where you’re just kind of doing it for the fun of it, to high school, where you’re putting 100 percent in workouts,” she said. “(Steyer) is really excited about doing that and is able to pass that excitement on to the kids he coaches.”
Steyer was instrumental in the formation of the Kachemak Bay Running Club, served as its board president and is a current board member. The club has sponsored and helped organize numerous running events in the area and was a strong advocate for replacing Homer High School’s old and unsafe track with a new one in 2012.
“Bill’s dedication to excellence has really set the bar high in the running community in Homer, Alaska,” said Chris Perk, Homer High’s athletic director. “Not only have the HHS teams benefited, but so has the entire running community in Homer, the Kachemak Bay Running Club and all the races that are hosted in town, as well as (the club’s) weekly Thursday night fun runs. We will miss his dedication to the sport and all the knowledge he has brought to our programs.”
Although he’s leaving Homer for a city known as the running capital of the world, Steyer and his wife aren’t cutting their ties to Homer.
“We have lots of good friends and roots here and we’re hanging onto our house,” he said. “We see ourselves coming back. I don’t know if it will be full-time, but we’ll see where things take us.”
McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.