Belancic steps down as Wheeling CC track coach
WHEELING — Making tough decisions are simply part of life.
Eric Belancic fully realizes and understands that, but that doesn’t make them any easier.
He learned that the hard way this week when he submitted his letter of resignation as head track and field coach to Wheeling Central Director of Athletics Donnie Murray.
After agonizing and going back and forth on whether or not to step down or not, Belancic simply couldn’t continue with coaching because of a chance in employment that requires far more traveling than his prior position.
“It was a terribly difficult decision,” Belancic, fighting back emotion, said. “Combine the travel for my work with missing family time, something had to be sacrificed. And, unfortunately, it has to be (coaching) track.”
Belancic actually took his new job in May and obviously finished the final few weeks of the 2019 season. Even then, he kind of realized that this decision was going to have to be made.
“I got a sense during the first weeks of having this job that this was going to happen, but I wasn’t totally sure what my workload was going to be until I got fully involved in it,” Belancic offered. “It quickly became evident with the extensive amount of travel involved, there was just going to be no way that I could do the coaching job effectively.”
Belancic wasn’t just a track coach. He’s a track and field junkie. That commitment level to not only the Maroon Knights’ athletes, but to the sport was one of the reasons that he opted to step down. He realized he couldn’t fully commit the time and energy that he wanted to invest.
“I prided myself with putting in a ton of time,” Belancic said. “I didn’t think it was fair for me to ask the kids to have a level of commitment that I couldn’t match because I am on the road. They need a coach who was going to be able to be there every day. I couldn’t miss practices and/or meets and for that reason I have to step down.”
The spring of 2020 will be the first since 2000 that Belancic isn’t a fixture at track meets in some capacity. After competing four years at Wheeling Central and four years at Mount Union, he returned to his alma mater to coach.
“I absolutely love the sport,” Belancic said. “I know there’s a faction of people out there who look at track as some kind of niche sport, but it’s been one of the biggest things in my life.”
Belancic joined the Maroon Knights’ coaching staff in 2008. He was hired as the head coach, replacing Craig Schneid, in 2011 at just 25 years old.
“I owe Mike Young, who was the A.D. then, a debt of gratitude because he trusted me from day one to run the program and allowed me to coach the way that I saw fit,” Belancic said. “Donnie (Murray) and (Principal) Becky (Sancomb) have been great to work for, too. They just let me run the program as I saw fit.”
Belancic’s program didn’t require much input. Quite frankly, under his guidance, the Maroon Knights further cemented themselves as one of the premier small-school programs in West Virginia.
That’s proven by his resume of accomplishments, which includes a Class A girls state championship in 2017, a state runner-up in girls in 2015, two third-place finishes and a fourth-place effort in Charleston. He was also part of the coaching staff in 2008 when the Knights won the boys’ title.
Belancic also guided the Maroon Knights to five OVAC titles, including four on the girls’ side.
“The program was already very, very successful when I took over, so I wanted to make sure that I was coaching (the teams) to the best of my ability, putting all of my effort into making it a positive experience for all of the kids. I feel like I did that and I feel like I did everything in my power to keep (the program) in as good of a position as possible.”
During his tenure, as head coach, Belancic coached four individual and 11 relay teams to state championships. He had 13 individual state runnerups and 10 relay runnerups. He also produced eight individual bronze medalists and five relays.
“I was blessed with great assistant coaches, including Craig Schneid, Heather Wayt, Kelley Mortakis and Caitlyn Francis,” Belancic said. “I obviously have to thank the hundreds of kids who I have coached in the last 12 years. They’re all very special to me and we’ve made memories that will certainly last a lifetime.”
While it’s always tough to trump the excitement of winning a state championship as a team, Belancic didn’t hesitate when asked what his favorite memory of his time as a Maroon Knights coach was.
“I was an assistant in 2010 and my brother, Johnny, won the state high jump title,” Belancic said. “That was definitely my proudest moment because I was able to share in something so special with my brother.”
Belancic won two state titles and finished as a runnerup in the high jump and high hurdles at the prep level. That set the stage to compete for the Purple Raiders where he was a five-time Ohio Athletic Conference champion and two-time Division III All-American, earning the accolade once during indoor and outdoor season.
“I was able to achieve things, make life-long friends and do things that I never would have dreamed possible because of track and field,” Belancic said. “Track will always have a special place in my heart.”
The sport has such a place that Belancic didn’t rule out being around the oval in some capacity as his schedule permits.
“I am going to try to stay involved with the sport as much as I can,” Belancic said.
On top of his extensive travels for his job, Belancic’s family is growing again. He and his wife, Aslynn have been married for four years. They have a son, Braden, who will turn 2 in October. The couple is expecting its second son in November.
“I have to thank my wife for being so supportive,” Belancic said. “It’s not the easiest thing being a coach’s wife, but she was always tremendous and so supportive. I simply can’t thank her enough.”