On April 5 – the day prior to National Student-Athlete Day – Eastern Kentucky University will honor a head coach who has dedicated his career to the success of student-athletes: Rick Erdmann.
EKU will host a special recognition ceremony for Erdmann – the Colonels’ longtime cross country and track and field head coach – on the concourse level of Alumni Coliseum at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5. The event is open to the public.
“It is our priority to publicly recognize individuals and teams that have contributed to the great athletic tradition at Eastern Kentucky University,” Director of Athletics Stephen Lochmueller said. “Like with the Wall of Honor at Alumni Coliseum, this is our way of honoring Coach Erdmann and all the positive notoriety he and his program have brought to EKU throughout the years.”
Over the last 36 seasons, Erdmann has transformed the Eastern Kentucky cross country and track and field program into one of the nation’s best, all while having a positive impact on countless young men and women.
“I remember the first time I met Coach Erdmann,” former student-athlete Sean Vandermosten said. “I knew I would be walking on to the team, and I was very nervous. In our meeting, Coach Erdmann made one point clear – ‘if you come to practice and work hard every day, I promise you will always have a spot on this team.’ He never broke that promise. He gave me a chance that I don’t think many people would have given me. Without this chance, I would not have been able to develop into the man and athlete I am today. For that, I will always be grateful.”
The Colonels have won 67 Ohio Valley Conference titles in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field since Erdmann arrived in 1979, including 10 straight by the men’s cross country team and nine of the last 10 by the women’s cross country team. Erdmann has been named OVC Coach of the Year 64 times.
Erdmann’s teams have consistently dominated on the conference level; however, they have also been contenders on the national scene. In 2015, the EKU men's cross country team qualified as an at-large team for the Division I NCAA Championships in Louisville, marking the fifth consecutive year the men advanced to the national championships. The Colonels placed 17th in Louisville, defeating the likes of Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Tulsa, Southern Utah, Virginia, California and Michigan State.
In 2013, the men’s cross country team was ranked as high as No. 11 in the country (the highest national ranking in program history) and won the NCAA Southeast Region for the first time in school history, defeating schools such as Virginia, North Carolina and North Carolina State. Erdmann was named the NCAA Southeast Region Men’s Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year, while a school-record six EKU runners earned All-Southeast Region honors.
The Colonels defeated traditional powers such as Stanford, Michigan and Princeton en route to a 15th place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships, the highest finish in program history. Senior Soufiane Bouchikhi led the way for the Colonels, placing 26th out of 254 competitors to earn All-America honors for the second straight year.
In all, Erdmann, a native of western Pennsylvania, has coached seven Division I Cross Country All-Americans, the most notable of whom is probably Jacob Korir. Korir ran at the NCAA Championships all four years he was at EKU, finishing seventh overall in 2006 and sixth overall in 2007.
In 2011, Lydia Kosgei became the first EKU woman and only eighth OVC woman ever to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. She finished 37th at Terre Haute, earning All-America honors.
Colonels have also achieved national success on the track under Erdmann, most recently in the form of Ole Hesselbjerg. Hesselbjerg, a native of Denmark, was a three-time first-team All-American in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He took bronze in the event at the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. His EKU personal-best of 8:33.22 is a school record and was the second-fastest time in the country during all of 2015.
Hesselbjerg is one of the latest in a long line of All-Americans under Erdmann’s guidance. EKU’s head coach has produced 31 NCAA Division I All-Americans in track and field and consistently sends student-athletes to the Division I national championship meet.