Esten served as head coach of the men’s cross country program at UW-La Crosse for 28 years – a run that lasted from 1970 until his retiring after the 1998 season. Esten, the USTFCCCA NCAA Division III Co-Coach of the Year in 1996, led UW-L to a NCAA Division III cross country national title in the same year. The Eagles would also add national runner-up honors in either the NAIA or NCAA Division III eight times during Esten’s tenure. In all, Esten’s squads finished in the national top ten in 26 consecutive tries and appeared in a national championship in 27 of his 28 cross country seasons.
UW-L won 20 WIAC cross country titles during Esten’s tenure and never finished lower than third in the league. In addition, Esten coached 28 runners to a total of 46 USTFCCCA All-America honors.
A 1965 graduate of UW-La Crosse, Esten was inducted into the UW-L and NAIA District 14 Hall of Fames in 1990, and the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches’ Association Hall in 1993. Esten earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Northern Colorado.