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Columbia basketball coach Mark Sandstrom resigns after successful 14 year run

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Citing personal and family reasons, Columbia High School boys basketball coach Mark Sandstrom announced his resignation Tuesday after 14 years in the Eagles program.

Sandstrom, who took over at Columbia from Bob Waggoner for the 2005-06 season, led the Eagles to six seasons of 20 or more wins, six regional titles and three Cahokia Conference championships during his tenure.

Now he’d like to follow the athletic career of his young daughter, Claire.

“I can no longer make the time commitment which is needed for the program to continue to be successful under my direction,” Sandstrom said in a prepared statement. “My daughter, Claire, is very active with numerous sports and I started to miss some of those things the last couple of years and it really bothered me. I can always coach again, but I won’t be able to get that time back with her.”

Sandstrom, who coached at Abington where he won a pair of sectional championships and compiled a record of 84-28.

While at Columbia, Sandstrom led the Eagles to IHSA regional championships in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018. That run includes a four-year span from 2007-2011 during which the Eagles won 27, 24, 21 and 20 games and were among the top Class 2A teams in the state.

Sandstrom’s teams went 252-173 in his 14 years at Columbia. His career record is 336-201.

This past season, Columbia finished 19-13 and won the Cahokia Conference Mississippi Division championship. The Eagles were eliminated from postseason play by Herrin at the Class 3A Freeburg Regional.

Sandstrom said the desire to continue to be a top program and do it “the right way” was beginning to consume him.

“Basketball started to consume me, my guts, mind, and emotions, but it had to be that way in order to be successful and do it the right way,” Sandstrom stated. “The time commitment and my passion to win had increased significantly in order to compete with private schools who recruit, the public schools who have 5-6 feeders schools where basketball is king, and the jump up to 3A class level.

“I still want to enjoy the game instead of being absolutely consumed by it.”

Sandstrom said that while the wins, regional and conference titles were nice, he will cherish the relationships made with the players he has coached.

“I’m most proud of the tremendous relationships I have with my former loyal players after their basketball careers were completed,” Sandstrom said. “It’s always great to see them now and in future to reminisce.”

Sandstrom will continue to teach at Columbia High School.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.