Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
KEOSAUQUA — Emily Cline thought she had found her forever home, the place where she felt comfortable and happy, where she would settle down and spend the rest of her working days.
After 13 years as head women's basketball coach at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Cline felt her heart strings calling her home to Farmington, where the 1995 Harmony High School graduate’s mother, stepfather, brother and sister call home.
On July 1, Cline began her job as athletics director at Van Buren County High School, which uses the Harmony building as an elementary school.
"I think it will definitely bring some memories back for me,“ Cline said. ”There are still some teachers in the district and some coaches around from when I was in school. That will be pretty cool.“
Cline replaced Wes McGraw (Central Lee Class of ’08), who is now at his high school alma mater as the activities director for the Hawks, replacing a retiring Jerry Ireland.
For Cline, there really is no place like home. Visiting for Memorial Day, her brother told her of a good job at Van Buren that might be worth considering.
“I thought it was in my best interest to come back to Southeast Iowa," Cline said. Three nieces and nephews are getting to the age where sports are an option. “I really don't want to miss out on that."
Cline did not miss out on any sports attending Harmony. She lettered in volleyball, basketball, softball, cross-country, and track and field. An associate of arts degree in social work from East Central College in Union, Missouri, in 1998 was followed with a secondary education and English degree from Cornell College in 2001. Cline was an all-conference basketball and softball player at both colleges.
Cline toured with an Athletes in Action women's basketball team through Bolivia in 2002 and coached in Costa Rica in 2013.
Cline started coaching as a student assistant at Cornell in 2000. Two seasons followed as a graduate assistant at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she earned a master's degree in organizational leadership. In August 2003, Cline moved on to coach at Sewanee, the University of the South, a private Episcopal liberal arts college in Tennessee.
At Knox, Cline's Prairie Fire squads have set numerous school records, including 18 by the 2014-15 team that led NCAA Division III in per game steals with 18.5 and offensive rebounds at 22.1. Second in per game 3-point field goals with 10.5 and points at 90, Knox had the most program wins in the Midwest Conference since the 1996-97 season and the most victories in a season since the 2001-02 campaign.
Cline's Knox teams have steadily improved including a winning record in each of the last five seasons (70-51 overall) with 16 wins in both 2017-18 and 2019-20 and a school record of 11 conference wins in each of those seasons. The team made its first Midwest Conference Tournament appearance in over 20 years in 2017-18 and returned in 2019-20.
Turning her talents into administration duties, Cline welcomes the challenge even though it will remove coaching. Having just completed her 20th year of running practices, drills, deciding who plays, who doesn’t and when among many other bench responsibilities at the college level, she has never done anything else.
“I’m not sure what that will be like,” Cline said. "I will definitely miss coaching. I love coaching.”
As the athletic director, Cline will still be in coaching mode as she takes over a Warriors athletic program with a rich winning tradition. Two years ago, VBC qualified for state in volleyball. The track, golf, basketball and cross-country teams have had many successes.
Randy Smith’s softball team is currently in the Class 2A rankings and head baseball coach Chad Scott churns out top-notch teams year in and year out. The teams play at the new Ferguson Sports Complex.
"When I was at Harmony, I never envisioned myself at Van Buren at any point," Cline said. “That was not something I had in my mind.”
Cline will still be around athletes and intends to be a “presence among the coaches.
"For someone from Harmony to be the athletic director at Van Buren County, I think that is cool."