Westlake loses long-time coach and teacher, Mark Hurst

Dylan Webber

Sports teams often form family-like bonds, and last Sunday the Westlake athletic family lost one of its longest standing members. On the morning of Oct. 4, longtime assistant football and track coach Mark Hurst passed away at the age of 59. Hurst had been battling stage four colon, lung and liver cancer for the past 30 months.

After graduating from Texas Tech University, Hurst joined the Westlake staff in 1979 as an art teacher and assistant track and football coach. After eight years serving as the assistant, Hurst took over as the head coach for the track team. Hurst coached his track teams to District Championships in more than half of the 28 years he served as head coach. In 2014, the Westlake track was named for Hurst to commemorate his success.

While Hurst undoubtedly had a great impact on his athletes, he proved to be just as invaluable as a role model to students off the field. Former football player and Featherduster writer Jacob Prothro is one of many students who can attest to that.

“I got to know Coach Hurst both as a football player and as a journalism student, so I saw both sides of him,” Prothro said. “He was a man of character. He’d set you straight when you messed up, but rarely would he yell. He didn’t say much either, so when he talked, you had to listen because he was going to say something really important. He had an impact on me both as a player and as a man. I would love to be like Mark Hurst — I think he’s someone we should all aspire to be like. I’ll never forget him, or the effect he had on me.”

Since Hurst had been at Westlake since ‘79, he had an opportunity to make an impact on hundreds of students throughout his career, including coach James Baker, who played under Hurst as a kicker for Westlake in 1999 and 2000.

“Coach Hurst was one of the main reasons I played football at Westlake,” Baker said. “He came to me my junior year and asked me if I wanted to be a part of a legacy. He helped to create an environment of excellence that every player who came through the program was a part of.”

But the lessons he taught weren’t strictly related to football or track, as they served a deeper meaning that could be carried for a lifetime.

“All of my values as an athlete and a coach come from that experience as a Westlake athlete — an expectation of excellence and class that can never be compromised,” Baker said. “Much of that I can attribute to the mentorship of Coach Hurst. I was fortunate to have him as a coach, but even more fortunate to know him as a co-worker and man.”

A memorial will be held for Hurst next Monday, Oct. 12, at 1 p.m. at St. John Neumann Catholic Church at 5455 Bee Cave Rd. In remembrance of Hurst, his family has asked donations be sent to either Hospice Austin or the Hurst Family Education Fund.