USTFCCCA Names National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year
NEW ORLEANS — Coaches get into their profession for a number of reasons.
Some, like Bozeman (Mont.) High School coach Casey Jermyn, find their way after competing at a high level and wanting to give back to the community in which they live.
Others, like Desert Vista (Ariz.) High School coach Jeff Messer, had an epiphany that their life calling was to mentor, serve and teach.
Whatever their path was, Jermyn and Messer found themselves connected at the hip at the end of the 2016 cross country season. That’s because Jermyn and Messer are the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Boys and Girls High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year for 2016.
Jermyn and Messer were chosen by an esteemed panel of their peers from the pool of state-level winners that were announced last week.
“I’m humbled,” Jermyn said when notified that he won the award for Boys Coach of the Year. “I’m in shock. There are a lot of deserving coaches across the nation and for me to be honored by other coaches like this is incredible.”
Messer, the Girls Coach of the Year, quickly praised his student-athletes, saying the special years are “predicated upon” by them and they are “great students, accomplished competitors and great community members.”
Jermyn took over as coach at Bozeman High School before the start of the 2016 season after the previous coach moved up to the collegiate ranks. The former Division I runner at Montana State also owns a local running store in Bozeman and became friendly with the athletes on the team when they patronized his business, which made the transition a bit easier in his mind.
It’s safe to say Jermyn’s debut season couldn’t have gone better. Jermyn led the Hawks to team titles at the state and national level. Bozeman High School easily won the MHSA Class AA crown in October and then more than three weeks later stood atop the podium at the Nike Cross Northwest Regional. Three weeks after that, the Hawks stunned many with an upset victory at Nike Cross Nationals in which they scored 105 points.
While those titles stand out in Jermyn’s mind, it’s the progression his athletes made during the season that will leave the strongest imprint.
“We went through all of the PRs at the end of the season and top down, all but one of our athletes improved,” Jermyn said. “When you have a group that is as good as we had running PRs that means the program is continuing in the right direction.”
Messer just completed his fourth season at Desert Vista High School. Prior to coaching the Thunder, Messer spent six years at Xavier College Prep and won six state titles there.
The girls team at Desert Vista High School made quick work of the 2016 season as they steamrolled the field at just about every meet in which they competed. And it wasn’t like the Thunder never left the state of Arizona: Messer took his team to the Cool Breeze Evening Invitational and Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, both in California.
“As a coach you must provide your team with a great opportunity,” Messer said. “My team is a team that likes to compete. I only let them compete in big races. It’s the type of schedule they wanted and I knew they’d thrive in those environments.”
Desert Vista captured the title at the Woodbridge Classic over Great Oak (Calif.) and it was at that moment Messer realized he had a special team. The Thunder only got better from there as they cruised to a state title (took five of the top-6 spots), won the regional title (resting their top-7 runners in the process) and then finished 6th at NXN.
While another trophy would have been welcomed in the school’s overflowing case, Messer said his team understands “The Process” and to him, it’s never about accolades.
“Serving is the greatest privilege a person can enjoy,” Messer said. “If you embrace the privilege with all of your energy — and I urge my fellow coaches to do the same — you’ll get back 10-fold what you put in.”