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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Burch recalls four decades as teacher and coach

Posted Monday, July 21, 2008, at 2:32 PM

Eastern Greene teacher David Burch is shown using a starter's pistol at the girls track and field sectional at Terre Haute North earlier this year. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
Through the years, I have had many conversations with David Burch of Eastern Greene Schools during his role as a official starter for cross country and track and field events in the county and beyond.

But unfortunately I was always distracted by the meet at hand and never had a chance to record his interesting observations and recollections as a teacher and coach in four decades at his alma mater. He attended and taught school on the same farm land once owned by his family.

Burch will be starting his 37th year as an educator at Eastern Greene, his alma mater, this fall. He still teaches junior high science, something he has done since 1979. He spent his first eight years at Eastern Greene split between teaching Spanish and science.

Here are some of the more entertaining details of his days in Center Township as a student, teacher and coach.

* Burch, a 1967 graduate of Eastern Greene, started out by coaching elementary basketball before becoming junior high coach.

"Back then the junior high basketball coach also coached cross country in the fall and track in spring," he said."

* In his early days at Eastern Greene, there was one season he coached the fourth, fifth, sixth, seven and eighth grade boys basketball teams.

"I coached all five teams without an assistant," he said. "But that was just the way it was back then."

* During his tenure as junior high basketball coach, he rubbed elbows with a pair of coaches that went on to varsity careers.

"Ron McBride was coaching junior high when he first went to Bloomfield," Burch said of the coach who has led the Cardinal varsity program since 1993. "Les Newman also coached elementary and junior high basketball before becoming the varsity coach at Linton.

"Ron and Les both worked their way up through the system."

* Burch said that once the bus did not show up to take the junior high and high school cross country teams to the Shakamak Invitational.

"I probably shouldn't be saying this, but we piled a bunch of kids in the back of my pick up," Burch said. "We were scheduled to leave about seven, but there was no bus.

"That is when part of the course at Shakamak was on the road. We rushed over there and delivered the junior high kids at the start-finish line just as the race was about to begin. I delivered the varsity kids in back so they could get ready to warm up. I am just happy that nobody got hurt."

He added that his family was camping at Shakamak that weekend, which meant he made several trips back-and-forth between Jasonville and Eastern Greene.

"That was an interesting day."

* Burch said that in the spring of 1972 his 1964 VW was crammed with kids going to a meet at Worthington.

"We had six kids and myself stuffed in VW and the rest of the team was in a panel van with the other coach," he said. "I can't imagine that many kids in a Volkswagen, but it is true.

"They were junior high kids, so they were not very big. One kid was scrunched up behind the seat."

He added that you couldn't do anything like that today because of the liability insurance involved. "If a bus didn't come, you would now just use your cell phone to call somebody."

* Burch, who will be 60 on Dec. 28, coached Babe Ruth baseball for a couple of years and also was softball coach for one season. He also was both varsity boys and girls track coach at the high school.

"The only sport I haven't coached at Eastern is football," he said. "And I am not looking for a comeback."

* Burch said he remembers that the fall baseball season determined the conference champion back in the days.

"The first day of school my senior year, 1966, we only went a half-day," he said. "We got out at noon.

"Bloomfield came over and we had a cross country race at 1 p.m. We would run two miles and then go get changed for a doubleheader baseball game. Only about two of our top 10 runners did not play baseball. You were pretty tired at the end of the day."

* He was the boys cross country coach at EGHS from 1980-89. A few years later, he got his license to be a starter in cross and track.

"I remember telling Roger (Weaver, the athletic director at WRV) that I had just gotten my license and was hoping to work start some meets," he said. "Roger said, "Here you start it. That was the beginning of my time as a starter.

"Back then and even some now in cross country, the coach or the athletic director would start a meet. I even started some when I coached at Eastern. People are more loosey goosey about starting cross country."

He added that he still enjoys being around cross country and track and field and his role as a starter.

"This allows me to be around the kids without the daily grind of coaching and everything that goes with it."

* He said there has been several sites for the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference and Greene County cross country meets, although both take place now at White River Valley. Even though the SWIAC was at L & M for several years, the course never seemed to be the same.

"It changed several times," he said. "They used to start on the back side and would run up the hill. The finish line was in he front of the school by the highway for a while.

"The starting line-up always seemed to change. There was always something different It was always hard to figure and determine records because the course always seem to change every time you went down there. Records down there were iffy."

* As an athlete and coach, Burch has seen the evolution of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference.

"At one time, there was a northern and southern division," he said. "You had Spencer, Edgewood, Bloomfield, Eastern, Switz City (Central) and Worthington in the northern division. In the southern division, there was Odon, Loogootee, Shoals, Shawswick, Needmore and Oolitic.

"L & M was not part of the SWIAC then. I am not sure when Shakamak or Union (Dugger) became part of the SWIAC."

* He said conference cross country meet rotated for a number of years. "We won the SWIAC at Odon when I was a senior in the fall of 1966," said Burch. "I was our No. 7 runner (last). But I finished 33rd out of 84 runners."

He added that the SWIAC took place once at Otis Park Golf Course in Bedford, before Shawswick, Needmore and Oolitic consolidated into Bedford North Lawrence and dropped out of the conference.

* During his time in cross country, Burch has seen the distance change from two miles during his running days to 2.5 miles in 1972 and to the current 3.1 miles (5K) in 1980.

"Back in the old days, just about anybody could go out and run two miles," he said. "To run 3.1 miles today, you have to put in a lot of training.

"I think that is the reason you don't have as many kids running cross country today. Back then everybody who played basketball ran cross."

* He said he remembers setting up a cross country course at Eastern with a 100 foot tape measure.

"There was no thing as a measuring wheel back then," he said. "You would have to keep tally of how many 100 feet you had measured."

* Burch said that a pair of state finalist coaches competed in the SWIAC cross country meet.

"John Heaton of Bloomfield was one of the top runners in the area back in the late 50s," he said. "John went on to coach basketball at Shelbyville, taking his team to the Final Four (1986).

"Steve Brett (who led the Loogootee Lions to the Class A state championship game in 2005) finished eighth in the SWIAC meet for Loogootee in 1966 when I was a senior.:

* Jack Spinks, who was on Bloomfield's 1961 basketball team that won the regional, went to the state meet and was hit with a head by a golf ball before the race (at South Grove Golf Course in Indianapolis).

He added that currently Bloomington North coach Charlie Warthan was a standout runner in the conference, competing for Edgewood

* He said that North Daviess had the rare distinction of winning the SWIAC title in 1986 without having a runner earn all-conference (finishing in the top 10) honors.

North Daviess beat Linton 76-78 as their top five runners placed 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 22nd.

"I don't think you will every seen anything like that again," he said.

Linton had three runners in the top 10, but their fourth and fifth guys finished 24th and 33rd.

* Burch said that one of the best runners he coached was Leroy Hearth, who qualified for the state in cross country at Eastern Greene and was sectional and regional champ in the 1,600 meters in track before running at Indiana State University. He said one year that Hearth appeared to be even better than what he was.

"The freshmen SWIAC was always at Worthington," said Burch. "Coach Pete Gill changed the course and said he re-measured it with his car. The freshmen ran two miles then.

"Leroy won it with a time of about seven minutes, which was faster than the world record for two miles. Ten or 11 minutes would have been a really good time then. Everybody knew that it was not two miles. The kids could not believe it when the race was over because they thought they had more to run and should have. I guess Pete's odometer was off."

He added that Linton hosted the SWIAC track meet even before they became a part of the conference and that Hearth had a stellar meet in '86.

"He ran the 1,600 in four minutes and 30 seconds on cinders," said Burch. "He also ran the 800 in 2:01 or 2:02 and on our relay team.

"He could have went faster cause I told him to just win both races and save something for the relay. His leg in the relay was sub 50 seconds. He was something else."

* Burch was the timer or official scorekeeper for the EGHS boys basketball games for 31 years.

"My first year I taught, I took pass outs and worked the door," he said. "Wally Swaby left and went to Linton and I took over. For years, I did the book on the road and ran the clock at home.

"I did it until the last five or six years, when I started working as an usher at the men's basketball games at IU. Through the years, I doubt if anybody has ever seen more athletic events at Eastern than myself, including the ones I watched when my daughters played sports."

He also has worked at IU as a ticket taker, usher or guard during women's basketball, soccer, wrestling, swimming and track and field.

His wife Patti, the brother of former Eastern Greene standout Gary Bryant, works full time in the IU ticket office.

He said he plans on continuing as a starter and as a science teacher for at least a couple of years.

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at hargisbj@yahoo.com.

Showing comments in chronological order
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Our kids all had Dave Burch as a teacher. He is one of those teachers that really care about the students. Our kids always said that after you graduate conversations that Mr. Burch had in class are put in a new light when you are out in the real world. They were glad that they had him for a teacher.

Thanks David for being such a good teacher, you will be hard to replace when you retire.

-- Posted by bird fan on Wed, Jul 23, 2008, at 11:40 AM

Thank you, Mr. Burch, for all your dedication and time you have given the students at Eastern Greene.

-- Posted by Tbird Forever on Sun, Jul 27, 2008, at 4:39 PM

I only know Mr. Burch as a starter at track meets, but he has always been a class act. You can tell he cares about the kids and the sport. Great guy!

-- Posted by GCC on Mon, Aug 4, 2008, at 11:09 AM

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