Tuesday brings both triumph and tragedy for Mount Union

Tuesday was a day of triumph and tragedy for anyone associated with Mount Union athletics.

On the one hand, two coaching milestones were achieved on the diamond as softball coach Matt Fiscus won his 200th game and legendary baseball coach Nick Imperioli earned victory No. 700 – a truly staggering total.

But the Trojan family lost someone as well on Tuesday. Alan Hartman, a man who took two turns at the helm of the Mount Union football program, died after a fight with cancer.

I played football for Mount Union, albeit not for Hartman. He had moved on from his first tenure as coach by that point.

But he was still a health and physical education teacher there during my high school years. Even though he wasn’t the coach, it was easy to tell he loved the challenge of getting the best out of young people by the way he refused to let anyone slack off during his gym classes.

But it was most evident when you watched his Trojan teams play.

Mount Union wasn’t always a juggernaut, but Hartman’s teams always played hard and won their fair share of games, including posting an undefeated regular season in 1993, the most recent in school history.

He was easily the most successful coach of Mount Union’s program during my lifetime.

He also gave a significant part of his life to coaching football.

Oftentimes in the aftermath of tragedy, we always hear talk about putting things in perspective and how sports are “just a game.”

But in so many ways, sports are more than that.

Athletics truly are the life’s work for many – especially in the place known as “Bricktown.”

Since the mid-1970s, Imperoli has been a fixture in the first-base dugout. Fiscus has been managing the softball team for more than a decade. Joe Komir has spent multiple decades leading the boys basketball squad. Corey Wertz – the man who succeeded Hartman as head man of the football team on an emergency basis this past season – has a double-digit number of campaigns as the wrestling coach.

And Hartman – before his illness finally caught up to him – came back for a second helping as the man in charge on fall Friday nights.

Sports are a big part of the identity of Mount Union and especially for those who wore the blue and gold. Hartman – like all of the coaches listed above – was a big part of that.

Over the years, these coaches have taken thousands of kids under their charge and made them all the better for it.

Tuesday truly was a day for athletic celebration for Trojans everywhere. For Matt Fiscus. For Nick Imperioli. And especially for Alan Hartman.

The only tragedy is that it takes events like those that happened Tuesday for most of us to realize it.

Sentinel city editor Brian Cox, a 2003 graduate of Mount Union Area High School, played varsity football for the school from 2000-2002. He can be reached at bcox@lewistownsentinel.com.