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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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Meet the Coaches: Erin Howarth

Cross Country Coach Erin Howarth is in her 14th year as head coach for the Panthers. (Eastern Illinois University Athletics)

Erin Howarth is the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams at Eastern as well the distance coach for our track team.

Raised in New Lenox, Howarth was brought up a mere two and a half hours north of Charleston.

Howarth’s father is an EIU alumni alongside two aunts, an uncle, and a handful of cousins.

In her words, her family has a “rich history with EIU.”

She went to running camps at Eastern during high school. It was then when she met former cross-country coach, Coach Mac, someone who Howarth views as “one of her best mentors.”

When asked what got Howarth into running, she responded with what most runners would say when asked the same question.

“PE class,” Howarth explained. “I got the Presidential Fitness Award and did well on the mile, so my coach noticed me and said, ‘You should try cross country.’”

She began her cross-country journey in fifth grade.

“I got a bit lucky to be honest, right place right time,” Howarth said. “First job out of college, I was working at a running store has a manager, and they put me in charge of all their training programs. So, I worked with the general public; 20- to 65-year-olds. I absolutely loved that, felt fulfilled and just a good sense of happiness when they achieved their goals. I just knew I was in the right spot with that kind of career path. Then, a job opened up locally at Butler University; the season was about to start. The coach knew me and asked if I was interested, and the rest is history. That was 18 years ago.”

Howarth reflected on her time at Butler under Coach Joe Franklin. She stressed how important coaching under him was to her own professional development.

“At Butler, I was very raw, it was my first job and [Joe] knew I didn’t know much about college coaching,” Howarth said. “I knew about coaching in general but [Joe] taught so much about the ins and outs of beyond just training programs. I felt like I knew that part. I just needed to know all the rules and all that stuff. He helped me a ton with all that.”

Howarth added how her experience at New Mexico gave her a final push to become a head coach for the Panthers.

“At New Mexico I was Associate Head, so I was kinda elevated to a lot more roles and expectations there,” Howarth said. “That gave me the confidence to know I could be the head coach here.”

Howarth applied for the Eastern head coaching job prior to her appointment in July of 2010.

She spoke about how perfect the job opening it was.

“When that popped up, I was kind of like ‘Oh my gosh, that would be a dream come true. It’s close to home, and I had my son out in New Mexico, so we knew we wanted to be closer to home,” Howarth said.

When asked about how she likes Charleston, Howarth said she thinks the community is great.

“I love it here,” Howarth said. “Fantastic community and a great campus. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Howarth has two children who were raised in Charleston. Her freshman son who runs cross-country and plays soccer at Charleston High School, and an 11-year-old daughter who dances, plays soccer, and runs.

Being one of EIU’s most decorated coaches, Howarth has acquired many accolades in the past 13-going-on-14 years for the school program.

Howarth is a three-time Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Men’s Cross-Country Coach of the Year (2020, 2021, 2022), three-time OVC Women’s Coach of the Year (2011, 2019, 2022), coached three OVC Men’s Conference Champions (2020, 2021, 2022), and coached two OVC Women’s Conference Champions (2011, 2022). She did all this while also coaching 71 All-OVC runners.

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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