By SETH STASKEY
For The News-Register
WHEELING - Successful Wheeling Park boys track teams have become as much a rite of spring as April showers.
The Patriots, however, will be without one of their key cogs when the season begins in a few months.
After 11 years at the helm, Chris Daugherty formally submitted his letter of resignation late last week.
"It was a tough decision, but it's just becoming difficult to juggle my family, coaching football and coaching track," Daugherty said. "I am just not able to run the track program the way that I feel it needs to be run."
Daugherty will remain as the Patriots' head football coach and continue as a physical education and health teacher.
"When I took over the football job, I thought I could do both, but as time has worn on, it's gotten harder," Daugherty said. "Football started to steal more of my time and I wasn't doing the things I was normally doing in track, so I knew it was time."
The toughest part of the decision came when Daugherty informed his Patriots' thinclads of his decision.
"You're always going to have that one kid or a couple of kids that it's their senior year and you'd like to stick around for," Daugherty said. "Some were like, 'can't you just do it one more year?' And then another group says that, but sooner or later, I knew the decision needed to be made."
Don't think Daugherty is leaving the sport of track and field completely.
"I love football, but I probably enjoy watching kids compete in a track meet as much as any other sporting event there is," Daugherty said. "I just like watching track meets, so I can't imagine going home when we're running against Steubenville in a dual and I'll be at the Dick Dei Classic unless I am in a wheel chair. Plus, I've probably met some of the best guys I've ever met in my life at track meets."
During Daugherty's time at the helm, the Patriots have won and won big. They won the Class AAA state championship in 2007, the state runnerup in 2008 and a third place finish in 2009. Plus, they've claimed 10 straight OVAC titles under Daugherty's watch.
"That stretch of 2007-09 was incredible," Daugherty said. "We had great kids in the program. I was a little naive during 2007 and really didn't know how good we were. We lost to two teams that season (Cleveland Heights and Erie McDowell) that were some of the best teams in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so I thought to compete with those teams, we're pretty good, but I never thought we'd go down (to Charleston) and win the state by 30 points."
On top of his affection for the sport, Daugherty is well aware of the benefits the sport of track and field can provide his football players.
"I'll still probably be the number one recruiter (of track athletes) at Wheeling Park High School, regardless of who takes over," Daugherty said.
The Patriots' roster has always been impressive. The majority of the years, Daugherty has had upwards of 50 or 60 athletes out for the sport.
"Building depth and getting kids out is the secret to track," Daugherty said. "We didn't always have the best kid in an event in the OVAC or in the state, but we had a lot of kids who could get third or fourth. Even at a school our size, you still have to talk to kids because you might only get 10 out if you don't."
Daugherty has coached his fair share of elites to go along with his depth. Eventual Division I signees Errin Baynes (USC) and Ryan Beabout (Tennessee) come to mind quickly as does Andy Goldbaugh, who was a standout hurdler and ran at Wheeling Jesuit.
"We've had some special kids, but you can't build a team with three kids," Daugherty said. "One of the things we were always extremely proud of was how we were able to score in almost every event a lot of the time."
As for the future of the program, Daugherty doesn't see any reason why the Patriots' string of success won't continue.
"I hope the school is able to find someone with a track fire who cares for the sport the way that I think I cared for it," Daugherty said. "Wheeling Park is a great place to coach and it's always been a place where track is important. The fastest kid in the school is always held in a high regard here. I feel lucky to be part of a school where track is that important. Plus, the facilities are great and Ohio County Schools gives you the ability to hire enough coaches to get the job done right."
Along with his boys' head coaching duties, Daugherty, a 1990 Park graduate, was the head girls' coach for a few seasons and also coached under Bernie Dolan.