Esten inducted into Hall of Fame

Esten hall of fame

Mark Guthrie and Phil Esten

San Antonio, Texas – Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse head men’s cross country coach Phil Esten was enshrined in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame December 14 at the USTFCCCA Convention. Esten’s presenter was former UW-L head track & field coach Mark Guthrie, who was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2008.

Esten joined coaches Keene Fitzpatrick (Yale/Michigan/Princeton), Ken Foreman (Seattle Pacific), Craig Poole (BYU), LaVerne Sweat (Norfolk State/Hampton), and Bill Webb (Tennessee/Cal State Northridge) in the Class of 2011.

Esten served as head coach of the men’s cross country program at UW-L for 28 years – a run that lasted from 1970 until his retiring after the 1997 season. Esten, the USTFCCCA NCAA Division III Co-Coach of the Year in 1996, led UW-L to a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III cross country national title in the same year.

The Eagles would also add national runner-up honors in either the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or NCAA Division III eight times during Esten’s tenure. In all, Esten’s squads finished in the national top ten in 26 consecutive tries and appeared in a national championship in 27 of his 28 cross country seasons.

UW-L won 20 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) cross country titles during Esten’s tenure and never finished lower than third in the league. In addition, Esten coached 28 runners to a total of 46 USTFCCCA All-America honors, including Brett Altergott who captured the NCAA Division III title in 1997.

He also served as an assistant track & field coach at UW-L for 34 seasons.

Esten was named the WIAC Men’s Cross Country All-Time Coach earlier this month.

A 1965 graduate of UW-L and former cross country and track athlete, Esten was inducted into the UW-L and NAIA District 14 Hall of Fames in 1990, and the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches’ Association Hall in 1993. His team was selected as the outstanding cross country program in NCAA III by Cross Country Journal in 1992. In addition, he was named the conference coach of the year four times.

Esten was inducted into the NAIA Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2000.

He earned his undergraduate degree from UW-L, where he majored in physical education with a health education minor. Esten earned his master’s degree and Ed.D. from the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to his appointment at UW-L, Esten taught and coached at Racine (Wis.) Horlick High School from 1965-70.

Esten and his wife, Mary, reside in La Crosse. They have three sons, P.J. (Dani); Andy and Chad (Veronica) and four grandchildren.

– Courtesy of UW-L Athletics. Find more athletics stories at

Featured in the Winter 2011-12 Magazine