STEPHENVILLE – One of the greatest track and field athletes to touch down on Oscar Frazier Memorial Track is coming home.
Tarleton announced the hire of 2014 NCAA Division II National Champion and six-time All-American Chase Rathke as the Texans’ head cross country coach and an assistant track and field coach on Monday.
Rathke will work directly with Tarleton’s distance runners while recruiting all event groups.
“Coach Rathke had an amazing career at Tarleton as an athlete which transitioned into him being an extremely successful coach immediately,” said Tarleton head track and field coach Clay Holland. “What I enjoy most about coach Rathke is his love, respect, and excitement about Tarleton State University. He truly has a passion for this institution and that is very important for the culture we are building. I have full confidence in him that he will be a tremendous asset to our success moving forward.”
Rathke returns to his roots following a four-year run at UT Tyler, where he served as the Patriots’ head distance coach and an assistant track and field coach. He has coached all seven years since his graduation from Tarleton in 2016. Rathke first transitioned to the coaching ranks as the head cross country and track and field coach at Center High School from 2016-2018.
Rathke led the Patriots’ cross country and track and field program to unprecedented success throughout his time in east Texas.
He guided UT Tyler through its transition from NCAA Division III to the NCAA Division II level and Lone Star Conference from 2019-2021. With Rathke serving as the program’s head distance coach, the Patriots achieved their first national ranking in school history in 2020. On the track, Rathke coached all distances ranging from the 800m through the 10,000m. In total, the Patriots’ distance crew broke 16 combined individual school records and shattered the program’s previous all-time mark in the distance medley relay in 2022 under Rathke’s leadership.
The 2021-22 season saw Rathke add one final layer to his legacy at UT Tyler. He coached the men’s cross country team to UT Tyler’s first appearance at the NCAA Division II South Central Regionals. The Patriots placed 14th at the meet and secured their postseason berth with a fourth-place finish at the LSC Championships. Three of Rathke’s athletes then combined to break seven indoor and outdoor school records. Five of the records fell at the feet of Angel Contreras, whom Rathke mentored to first team All-LSC accolades in cross country and indoor track and field.
The 2020 cross country season proved historic for UT Tyler despite challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The Patriots’ men’s team secured the No. 10 overall ranking in the Division II National Coaches Poll midway through the fall, signifying the first national ranking in program history. Rathke then qualified the men’s team and two women’s athletes for the 2020 D2 Cross Country National Invitational meet. The Patriots’ distance crew went on to break two indoor school records and help UT Tyler finish in the top-half at both the LSC Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Rathke’s leadership was on full display in 2019-20. He steered the cross country program through its first season at NCAA Division II and saw Zach Tucker honored as the LSC Academic Runner of the Year, marking the Patriots’ first D2 postseason All-Conference accolade. Rathke then helped UT Tyler post top-10 finishes in its LSC Indoor Championship debut.
Originally from Crawford, Texas, Rathke’s collegiate coaching career certainly got off to an auspicious start in 2018. He led the Patriots’ men’s cross country team to an American Southwest Conference championship and saw the women capture second place in UT Tyler’s final season at the D3 level. On the indoor track, five of Rathke’s athletes broke school records in the 800m, mile, 3000m, and 5000m. He also coached Will McIlroy to a conference championship in the 3,000m steeplechase during the outdoor season.
Rathke’s influence in Tyler extended to the classroom. He helped elevate the Patriots’ cumulative men’s grade point average by .46 points and saw the women increase their combined mark by .36 points during his tenure.
His impact was immediately felt upon his arrival at Center HS. Rathke led the program to consecutive top-10 finishes at the UIL 4A State Cross Country Championships for the first time in school history. He also served as an assistant soccer coach and taught professional communication in addition to his duties with the cross country and track and field program.
Few distance runners to pass through Stephenville can match Rathke’s resume in purple and white.
He became Tarleton’s first long distance national champion when he won the 1,500m at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor National Championships. Rathke also finished second in the event at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor National Championships in the final race of his career. He earned bronze medals twice at the NCAA Indoor National Championships, first in the 800m in 2014 and later in the mile as a senior in 2015.
Rathke was named the LSC Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2015. He received All-American, USTFCCA All-Region and All-LSC accolades on the track from 2013-2015. Rathke also earned All-Conference honors in cross country as a freshman and sophomore.
He owns four track and field school records: the indoor 800m (1:51.09), 1,500m (3:44.15), mile (4:05.66) and the distance medley relay (9:55.27).
Rathke earned a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from Tarleton in 2016. He is a 2011 graduate of Crawford High School, where he won state championships in cross country (2010), the mile (2010, 2011) and the 2-mile (2011).