Roach, Villers Named National High School T&F Coaches of the Year
Record-breaking performances were second nature in 2019 for the boys from Pickerington Central High School in Ohio and the girls from DeSoto High School in Texas.
And it takes a special coach to help those athletes tap into their true potential.
That’s why Jason Roach and June Villers were named the 2019 National Boys and Girls High School Track & Field Coaches of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday. Roach and Villers were selected by a panel of experts from the state-by-state list of winners that was released earlier this month and will be honored at the annual USTFCCCA Convention in December.
TRACK & FIELD COACHES OF THE YEAR
|YEAR||BOYS WINNER||GIRLS WINNER||STATES|
Pickerington Central HS (Ohio)
DeSoto HS (Texas)
East Canton HS (Ohio)
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
The Woodlands HS (Texas)
Lee’s Summit West (Mo.)
Catholic HS (Louisiana)
Bishop Kelly HS (Idaho)
Wayzata HS (Minnesota)
Northwestern HS (Fla.)
Hinds AHS (Mississippi)
Summit HS (Oregon)
All it takes is one look at the results from their respective state championship meets – and a little bit of historical context – to understand just how dominant the Roach-led Tigers and the Villers-led Lady Eagles were this past outdoor season (FYI: This award only counts outdoor track & field since some states don’t have indoor track & field).
DeSoto entered the UIL Track & Field Championships in mid-May as the perennial favorite, having won the past three Class 6A state titles in a row. But that wasn’t enough for the Lady Eagles, especially the seniors, who set a bigger goal for themselves as freshmen.
“They knew that we won three in a row from 2011 to 2013, so they wanted to top that,” Villers said. “They wanted to win four in a row and do something no other DeSoto team had done.
“They completely bought in after winning three. A lot of our kids ran cross country than ever before. They also went out of their way to do more events – and to get more comfortable in them – to give us more scoring opportunities.”
All of that dedication turned into a masterclass performance at Mike A. Myers Track & Soccer Stadium in Austin. The Lady Eagles won five individual or relay titles, scored in 10 events and put up 121 points, which is more than any other team – regardless of classification or gender – in the history of the UIL Championships.
DeSoto left its mark on the national landscape, too, with its performance in the 4×100 Relay. The Lady Eagles flew around the track and crossed the finish line in 44.24, bettering their own national record of 44.44 that they established a few weeks earlier at the UIL Class 6A Region I Championships (The previous standard belonged to Long Beach Poly since 2004).
“We knew they were going to be able to run fast, but they surprised us with that 44 low,” Villers said. “We moved some people around different spots to keep them healthy and to match their strengths and it really paid off.”
Health is wealth, something that Roach knows all too well.
“We won the state title last year, but one year before that – So, three years go – we thought we had a team that would easily win the state title,” Roach said. “We were in perfect position. Our kids were peaking at the right time. Then we had two of our kids get hurt on the same relay, so that took the wind out of our sails big time.”
After taking stock of his roster in 2019, Roach noted to his coaching staff that he thought they could be a strong regional team but had to keep them healthy throughout the long postseason in order to shine when it mattered. So, Roach went to extreme lengths to make sure they would be ready to go by the time they reached Columbus.
“We only practiced one time during the week of the state meet,” said Roach, who is the second coach in a row from Ohio to win this honor. “I didn’t want to take any chances.”
Once the Tigers were unleashed, there was no holding them back.
Pickerington High won seven event titles, including each of the four relay crowns (4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800). Both of those feats had never been done in the 112-year history of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) State Championships. The Tigers ended up scoring 87 points, another state record.
“It was a special season, period,” Roach said. “I had to pinch myself a few times, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Is this really my team? I have never seen a team this good.
“I pulled my assistants aside at one point and reminded them how lucky we are to be coaches. Those are the types of moments that keep you coming back and remind you why you do what you do, especially when you see the kids realize hard work does pay off.”