HENRY POWERS, SPORTS WRITER
Wartburg men’s and women’s cross country are running for a cause this season as they continue to honor former coach and athletic director, John Kurtt, ‘53, who passed away on Aug. 23 of 2022, at age 91.
Kurtt wore many hats at Wartburg, including as the head cross country coach from 1961 to 1988, athletic director from 1964 to 1991, and head baseball coach from 1982 to 1993 according to goknights.net.
Current head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams, seven-year coach Ryan Chapman, said Kurtt was a big influence on the program.
“John was a constant presence in and out of the annex here, swinging in just to chat for a minute here, a minute there,” he said. “It was more just constant enthusiasm; just a lot of high fives, a lot of go get em’s.”
Christopher Collet, a fourth-year senior on the men’s team majoring in athletic science, said he remembered a couple instances with Kurtt while in the later stages of his life.
“He started a few of our meets and talked to us very briefly before the national cross country meet my freshman year,” he said. “He’s very much the old-school style of coach with the speech he gave us before that meet.”
A lot of athletes in the cross country program didn’t have the chance to meet Kurtt before he passed, including Ashley Bloomquist.
Bloomquist, a fourth-year member of the women’s team majoring in biology and minoring in psychology, said she heard nothing but great things about Kurtt and his lasting impact.
“I do know that he was loyal to the team he coached which helped create a tradition of dedication and perseverance in Wartburg cross country,” she said. “We feel grateful to have the early season invite to honor him and all he did to start up our program.”
In the early season invite Bloomquist referred to, the “John Kurtt Invitational,” the men and the women both placed first among a group of alumni and athletes from Drake and Waldorf University, according to goknights.net.
The John Kurtt Invite will continue be a staple for years to come in September, according to Chapman, and he would also like to eventually raise money for some type of permanent structure to honor Kurtt’s life and his lasting impact.
In cross country, Kurtt coached eight national qualifier teams, three All-Americans, four Iowa Intercollegiate Atheltic Conference MVPs and 71 All-Conference runners. His teams also won four conference championships, and he received the Conference Coach of the Year award four times. In baseball, he mentored one IIAC MVP and 27 All-Conference selections, according to Wartburg athletic records.
Wartburg Athletics named its annual Alumni Coach of the Year after Kurtt upon his retirement in 1993.
For current students, the Athletics Suite in the Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center is named in his honor.
Chapman said one of the notable things he picked up from interactions and stories from others regarding Kurtt was his passion and competitive spirit.
“We were leaving for nationals one year and John said, ‘Best of luck, if you don’t win don’t call me’,” he said. “Then he laughed and he said, ‘Just joking, Coach, go get em’.”
He and his wife, Laurel, were married for 68 years before she died. Kurtt is survived by two sons and their spouses and three grandchildren, according to his obituary.
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