Harsh did it all

Spent 60 seasons as coach at SV

July 17, 2019 Cranberry Local Sports

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Longtime Seneca Valley track and field coach Bob Harsh, center, is pictured here in May 1977 with his girls mile relay team that was preparing to compete at the state championship meet. Team members include, from left, Beth Painter, Mary Miller, Janet Wilk and Sharon McBride. Between track and field and wrestling, Harsh amassed 60 seasons as a coach in the district. He will be inducted into the SV Sports Hall of Fame in September.

This is the fourth in a series of eight articles profiling the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2019

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — His upcoming induction into the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame caused Bob Harsh to reflect.

He certainly has a lot to look back on.

Between his years of coaching track and field and wrestling at SV, Harsh totaled 60 seasons of leading student-athletes.

“I coached 23 athletes who are now in the (SV) hall of fame,” said Harsh. “I look back on it now, I was really privileged to be involved as much as I was. Coach Harsh was my identity and I cherish those memories.”

A native of Iowa, Harsh came to Seneca Valley in 1968 as a student teacher while still enrolled at Geneva College. He was hired after graduation and spent 36 years as a biology teacher in the district.

He immediately got involved with the young varsity wrestling program and spent seven seasons as Ken Lockey's assistant.

Meanwhile, Dick Lane, then the school's boys track and field coach, tasked Harsh with starting a junior high boys program. After several years involved with that, he took over the varsity girls track squad in the mid-1970s.

“I had never spent much time around girl athletes and figured they weren't going to work as hard as the boys did. Boy, did I find out differently. It was a special group of girls and we had all kinds of success.

“Our girls (880-yard) medley relay held the state record for one day in 1975. We went out to the state meet and on the first day, they ran a state-record time in the trials. The finals were the second day and we ended up placing third.”

His role as head coach forced Harsh to expand his knowledge.

“I had been a hurdler and ran in the mile relay and never paid much attention to the jumpers and throwers. But I went to clinics and read books and learned a lot.”

In those early years of his tenure, Seneca Valley was a small school, far from what the district has become.

“We went up against schools like North Hills, Shaler ... schools that were twice as big as we were and still did very well. I'm very proud when I look back at that.”

After Harsh spent six seasons as head coach of SV's girls, Seneca Valley decided to combine its track and field programs in 1980. He interviewed for the head-coaching job, but the position was given to Wayne Roccia.

“I was disappointed at the time. I wanted to lead both the boys and the girls, but they gave the job to the right guy,” Harsh said. “Wayne is a first-class man. He was so organized and had a great relationship with his assistants. A lot of them remained with the team for many years.”

Harsh was among that group. He stayed on to coach hurdlers and throwers on both the boys and girls side until he retired following the 2004 season.

“One thing about both Ken Lockey and Wayne Roccia, some head coaches put their assistants off to the side, but not those two. They let their assistants coach. You had certain responsibilities and you really had to hone in on your specific area.”

Harsh ran SV's junior high wrestling program for two stints totaling 18 seasons, the last coming in 1996.

“I have to give credit to Jeff Wilhelm. He was my assistant for 13 years and did a great job.”

Bob and Carol Harsh have lived in Georgia for 15 years and recently celebrated 51 years of marriage. They have two sons, Scott and Jeff, and a daughter, Julie.

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Derek Pyda

Derek Pyda

- Graduated from Connellsville High School in 1996
- Graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a Bachelors in Communications
- Have also written for Clarion News (Clarion, PA) and the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, PA)
- Started at the Butler Eagle on April 2, 2002
- Interests include sports, history and geography