2017 USTFCCCA National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year

NEW ORLEANS – Early-season returns led Marc Hunter and Brian Zaring to believe their respective boys and girls cross country teams were going to be special in 2017.

By the time their respective campaigns ended three months later at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, both of their assumptions turned out to be well-educated facts.

That’s a major reason why both Hunter and Zaring were named National Boys and Girls Cross Country Coaches of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Wednesday. Hunter and Zaring were selected by an esteemed panel from the group of state-by-state winners and will be feted in December at the 2018 USTFCCCA Convention.

USTFCCCA National Cross Country Coaches of the Year

Year
Boys Coach
Girls Coach
2017
Marc Hunter
Loudoun Valley (Va.)
Brian Zaring
Keller (Texas)
2016
Casey Jermyn
Bozeman (Mont.)
Jeff Messer
Desert Vista (Ariz.)
2015
Doug Soles
Great Oaks (Calif.)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius (NY)
2014
Bill Miles
Wayzata (Minn.)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius (NY)

Back in September, Hunter – and his wife Joan, who also coaches the team – watched as the boys from Loudoun Valley (Va.) High School run roughshod over the competition at the Loudoun County Championships. All seven of his varsity runners clocked sub-16 minute times on the 5K course and won by 40 points. Prior to that day, no team in state history had put seven runners under 16 minutes during the same season.

No one could stop the Vikings as they continued their run to team titles at the Great American Cross Country Invitational, the Virginia High School League Class 4A Region C Championships, the Virginia High School League Class 4A State Championships, the Nike Cross Southeast Regional Championships and finally at Nike Cross Nationals. Loudoun Valley notched a perfect score of 15 points at the state meet and tallied the lowest score of any boys’ team in NXN history (89 points).

The closest any opponent got to beating the Vikings was Green Hope at the Great American Cross Country Invitational. Loudoun Valley ended up winning by 25 points.

Zaring, like Hunter, witnessed an impressive performance in September that allowed him to fully buy into the idea that his Keller (Texas) girls would be podium-bound at NXN.

“Our first meet was a six-mile relay and the girls started five minutes after the boys,” Zaring said. “There weren’t any slouches at this meet. Our girls passed half of the boys’ teams and set a course record by almost one minute.”

The Indians kept it rolling from there, nabbed a team title at the stacked Chile Pepper Festival hosted by the University of Arkansas and cruised through the Class 6A postseason, the largest classification in Texas. Keller won the Class 6A state meet by 59 points and had four girls earn all-state honors, which is incredibly difficult in the talent-rich Lone Star State.

Zaring saw his girls take second at the Nike Cross South Regional Championships – a meet they trained through – and then fourth in Portland to achieve a goal they set before the season began.

“It’s a tight-knit group that just remained focused all year long in every aspect – from nutrition to training to recovery,” Zaring said. “There was no doubt in my mind they would be able to do what they did after the summer they had and the leadership our seniors showed.

“To me, coaching is all about seeing the progress kids make from Day 1 to the end of the season, no matter who they are. We have boys who run in the 15s and girls who run in the low-17s, but then we have runners to who a groundbreaking accomplishment to break 30. They all want to share in each other’s success. Being around these kids keeps me young and motivated to come to work every day. It’s a wonderful thing.”