This is the fifth in a series of six articles profiling the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.
MIDDLESEX TWP — Brian Hoffman was looking for his own path in athletics. Once he found it, he never wavered from it.
“My father, Jim, was a baseball coach at Mars in the 1980s,” said Hoffman. “I played football as a freshman, but was barely 100 pounds and going nowhere fast with that.
“I wanted to create my own path. I had some friends who were runners and track and cross country were superior at Mars. That's how I got involved.”
Hoffman, a 1985 Mars graduate, starred in middle distance events and distance relays for the Planets and helped Mars capture the WPIAL Class AA cross country title his senior year.
He has also met with much success as a cross country and track coach for Avonworth/Northgate, serving with the latter since 1990.
Hoffman will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 6.
Already involved with the track team by his sophomore year, a friend urged Hoffman to run competitively in the fall.
“Jack Volzer and I used to get together and take off, run five, six, seven miles at a time,” he related. “He said I should come out for the cross country team.”
Hoffman did just that and it proved a wise decision. He played a key role in the Planets going undefeated against Class AA foes through the district meet in 1984.
“That meet was held in a cold rain and when we went to the state meet a week later, I was running a fever.
“We did well as a team. It was just rewarding to earn a spot there and compete against the best teams in the state.”
Hoffman recalls the leadership provided by then- track and cross country coach Clem Papik.
“He was a fantastic coach, ahead of his time,” said Hoffman. “We ran an extreme amount of hills and he would mix in recovery runs.”
Hoffman went on to compete in both sports at Clarion University, but was not able to reach his full potential.
“I couldn't stay out of the training room,” he said. “I always seemed to be on crutches. My body was broken down after all of the running I had done.”
But another door soon opened for Hoffman.
He was hired as an elementary school teacher at Northgate immediately after graduating and took over as an assistant with the district's track and field squad, which had a co-op with Avonworth.
He would serve as head cross country coach for six seasons and became head track coach prior to the 2016 campaign.
“I always wanted to be a coach,” he said. “Maybe it came from being a coach's son.”
Through it all, Hoffman's tutelage has helped bring 39 WPIAL track titles and eight state titles to the program. His 2018 girls squad won the PIAA team championship.
In cross country, he has coached a district and state champion.
“I've been around a lot of success,” he said. “No one person can do it all. Our coaching staff is tremendous. We work with each other and share in the glory.”
Hoffman said of his selection to the hall of fame, “It's a tremendous honor. It's nice to be recognized and remembered in this way.”
Hoffman and his wife, Angie, are parents of a son, Carson, and a daughter, Camden.