The 2017 season marks Eddie Lang’s 33nd year of coaching track at Wylie High School, and while he has many great memories over three-plus decades, the last several years have been particularly special.
That’s because Lang’s grandchildren have been part of the Wylie track program.
Lang coached his grandson, Noah Lang, to the state meet last year as part of the 400 relay team, and his granddaughters, Kylee and Maci Kirk, each advanced to regionals with their relay teams.
Noah moved to the Metroplex right after football season in December, but Kylee and Maci return this year for another shot at regionals and possibly state.
The Lang grandchildren didn’t have much choice but to run track – after all their parents ran for their dad when they were in high school, and their grandfather was a state champion when he was in high school.
“It kind of runs in the family,” Maci said. “It’s kind of expected.”
“They didn’t have an option,” Coach Lang said.
Lang grew up in Rotan, where he won a state championship in track as a freshman and a state championship in football as a sophomore. He had a 74-yard touchdown run in the state football championship game.
His father had passed away when he was 10, and his coach at Rotan filled the father role.
“I had a real good high school coach who was a really great guy and a great motivator,” Lang said. “He took me under his wing. I always wanted to be like him.”
So Lang went into coaching and coached at several places including Merkel, where the school wanted him to go into administration. Lang had a master in education along with principal and counselor certificates.
“I didn’t think that was what I wanted to do,” he said. “I didn’t want to work with people. I liked to work with the kids.”
So when Wylie came calling in 1985 wanting him to coach track and football, he jumped at the chance. He continues to coach boys track in the spring and the defensive line for the football team in the fall.
Coach Hugh Sandifer was coaching basketball when Lang came to Wylie. He moved to athletic director a few years later and is one of the reason’s Lang stayed at Wylie.
“We grew up together all the way through,” Lang said. “He was here about three years before I was. Coach Sandifer is awfully good to work for. You want to work for someone like that.”
Lang said the Wylie community is another reason he has stayed so long.
“I found a home,” he said. “They community is great. They support the coaches, and they support their kids. You don’t have that very often.”
But the kids are the primary reason why Coach Lang is still coaching at 70 years old.
“I’ve always liked to be around kids,” he said. “You never have to grow up when you do that.”
He said about 90 percent of the boys who play football also run track, which means he gets to know them very well during their four years at Wylie High.
“I probably know them better than their mommas and daddies do,” he said. “They are my kids for about four years here. They know I’ll do anything in the world for them, and they would do anything in the world for me.”
Wylie senior Cody Calhoun said Coach Lang does more than just coach.
“He’s almost like a father figure in everything we do,” Cody said. “He’s always encouraging to anyone who comes out here.”
Kylee said her grandfather gets along well with the students.
“They love him,” she said. “He’s one of their favorite coaches.”
“He always jokes around with the boys,” she said. “And he always checks up on them too.”
While Coach Lang doesn’t technically coach his granddaughters – that job falls to girls track coach Kerry Hibbits –he keeps a close eye on them. Kylee said she can hear her grandfather encouraging her when she is running.
“He is always there yelling,” Kylee said. “He’s always supporting us no matter what.”
Maci said he’s nice to have around at track meets.
“He’s very willing to help us,” she said. “I can always hear him at the track meets. When I get nervous, he tries to calm me down. He’s always joking around with us about the workouts.”
Lang’s wife, Donna, is secretary at the Early Childhood Campus and their children Sha Lang and Maxi Kirk both ran track when they were in high school at Wylie. Lang said getting to coach his children and now his grandchildren is really special.
Unfortunately, Sha’s work transferred him to the Metroplex in the fall, and Noah left right after football season ended. Noah’s sister, Mia, was a freshman and would have also been running track this year.
“I really miss them,” Lang said. “I got to coach Noah one year. It’s been a blessing.”
Lang has had numerous highlights to his coaching career – the track team won a state championship in 2001 and the football team won a state championship in 2004. In 2012, Lang was named State Coach of the Year for boys’ track and field in Texas by the National Federation of High School Coaches Association. He was presented the award at the UIL State Track Meet.
“It’s more the kids that I coached that got me that,” he said. “I’ve been real lucky to have some great kids to coach. We had a lot of success.”
But while Coach Lang gives the credit to his students, Coach Sandifer said Lang has been an asset to the Wylie sports program.
“He’s dedicated a lot of his life to Wylie,” Sandifer said. “He’s been involved in a lot of young people’s lives in this community.”
Lang said he has no plans to retire just yet. He would love to win another state championship before he calls it a career, and he still loves coming to work each day and being around the kids.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You can’t do anything and have as much fun as you do here.”