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Wasatch High School track is renamed to honor winning coach

Wasatch County School District

Family, friends and former athletes recently gathered to dedicate Wasatch High School’s Tolley Track to a local legend.

It’s ironic that when the winningest track-and-field coach in Wasatch High School’s history moved to Heber in 1964, there wasn’t even a track. But one of Coach Verle Tolley’s many legacies was ditching the school’s use of the cinder track at the county fairgrounds and replacing it with a modern rubberized field of dreams at the high school.

At a special ceremony to rename Tolley Track on Tuesday, school officials lauded the accomplishments of his 26-year coaching history in cross-country, track, football, baseball and basketball. In 1981, he won his first state championship in cross country and then went on to win six state championships in track. In all, his teams won eight state championships with an additional seven runner-up trophies from various state contests.

Wasatch County School District Superintendent Paul Sweat said the high school’s Wright-Tree Stadium is now a place of local legends.

“Dan Wright and Ron Tree’s names are on the stadium and now to put Verle Tolley's name on the track—that makes three Wasatch historical giants that will always be represented here at Wasatch High School," he said. "As time moves on and more and more people move here and we're building the second high school, how fitting to have those three great names on this facility right here. I love it.” 

KPCW | Amber Johnson

Following a ribbon cutting and ceremony, family, friends, and current and former high school athletes took an inaugural lap on the new Tolley Track.

Diana Besendorfer Horner was coached by Tolley in hurdles and said thanks to him, she now coaches the event at the high school. “He was very analytical. He would put runners in certain events to score the most points and that made him a winning coach. And always when you would finish the race, he would come up and give you a high five and say, ‘Super kind of effort!’    
Horner said in 1989, Coach missed part of the season due to illness and landed in the hospital during regionals. 

“The girl’s team wasn't predicted to win but everybody gave it their best for Coach Tolley and because of his inspiration, we won the regional championship," she said. "And we all wanted to surprise him with that region trophy. So after the meet, it was in Tooele, we all got on the bus and went to his hospital room in Provo and took the region trophy to show him.”

KPCW | Amber Johnson

Coach’s legacy extends beyond state championships. He taught biology, health and physiology, He also got behind the wheel with thousands of kids learning to drive. He started the first Wasatch County recreation program and Meals on Wheels, often delivering meals with his family.

An accident in 1990 forced Coach into retirement. Despite a traumatic brain injury, he continued to be a light to his family and friends until he passed away in 2022, two weeks after his 85th birthday.

His widow Colleen said he would be humbled by all the attention but she said being the wife of the winningest coach in the school’s history wasn’t always glamorous. “You were always on a bleacher. I wish sometimes I had logged how many hours I spent on the bleacher–not just at Wasatch but anywhere else that the team was. It's been a great honor.” 

And now, that honor and legacy will forever be memorialized as new up-and-running legends chase their dreams.