Bia, Brosnan Named National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year

A team is only good as a sum of its parts.

One athlete doesn’t make a team, no matter how good that athlete is.

So while standouts Nico Young and Ali Upshaw led the charge for Newbury Park High School in California and St. Michael Indian School in Arizona during the 2019 cross country season, respectively, it was up to them and the rest of their teammates to pull together so that they could have the dream season they envisioned for themselves months earlier.

And, on top of that, both of their respective coaches – Sean Brosnan and Kelly Bia – must find a way to unlock their athletes’ true potential.

Well, it’s safe to say the stars aligned for Newbury Park and St. Michael Indian as Brosnan and Bia were named National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year on Thursday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

CROSS COUNTRY COACHES OF THE YEAR

YEAR BOYS WINNER GIRLS WINNER STATES
2019 Sean Brosnan
Newbury Park HS (California)
Kelly Bia
St. Michael Indian (Arizona)
State-By-State
2018 Mark Stenbeck
Dakota Ridge HS (Colorado)
Carol McLatchie
Summit HS (Oregon)
State-By-State
2017 Marc Hunter
Loudoun Valley HS (Virginia)
Brian Zaring
Keller (Texas) HS
State-By-State
2016 Casey Jermyn
Bozeman HS (Montana)
Jeff Messer
Desert Vista HS (Arizona)
State-By-State
2015 Doug Soles
Great Oaks HS (California)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius HS (New York)
State-By-State
2014 Bill Miles
Wayzata HS (Minnesota)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius HS (New York)
State-By-State

“This is truly an amazing honor,” Brosnan said. “I think I can speak for all coaches and say that it’s never about the awards, because it’s all about the athletes. We are lucky to be the in positions that we are to help them reach their potential and when they do, good things like this happen.”

Brosnan found out quite early that his team was serious about wanting to take things to the next level, like they all discussed at an offseason team meeting last February.

It was at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic where the Panthers, led by Young’s record-shattering run, set a meet record for the fastest average time over three miles. Young became the first prep runner to ever go under 13:40 in a three-mile cross country race with his 13:39.70, while his teammates packed up well to post an average time of 14:14 to thump rival Great Oak.

Pardon the pun, but it was off to the races from there as Newbury Park responded to a loss to Great Oak at the Asics Clovis Cross Country Invitational by running roughshod over its foes the rest of the regular season, which included a 73-point win at the CIF-SS Division Finals (59-132) and a 51-point margin of victory at the state meet (37-88).

Then the Panthers turned their attention to NXN and won a thriller over Great Oak by a score of 128-132. Young set another course record, Jace Aschebrenner finished in the top-20 and the cast of teammates – all underclassmen, mind you – stepped up to secure the national crown.

“Our culture has definitely shifted,” Brosnan said. “Our expectations on freshmen, sophomores and juniors are different than it has been in the past. They want to keep this thing rolling.”

St. Michael Indian School is deeply rooted in its own culture, located at altitude in the heart of Navajo Nation, the largest land area retained by an indigenous tribe in the United States.

Stark in contrast to many of their competitors, student-athletes at St. Michael Indian School don’t have access to a track, nor do they have a fancy weight room in which to lift. That’s perfectly fine with the Cardinal, though.

“Kelly thinks the big accomplishment is using their environment – Navajo culture, altitude, dirt roads and a rural-ness – to their advantage,” Mike Elder, the Director of Athletics at Northland Prep Academy, wrote in his nomination for Bia. “She hopes the young ladies understand that hard work, commitment and accountability are the key, not all the materialistic things that they do not have access to. They can make things work, regardless of what they have, because it’s what inside a person that counts and being proud of where they come from and who they are as Navajo young women/people.”

That mentality pushed St. Michael Indian School to success all season long, starting with back-to-back team titles at the Curtis Williams Invitational and the Patason Amesoli Invitational in early-to-mid October and ending with crowns at the AIA Sectionals – Hidden Cove as well as at the AIA Division IV State Championships.

It was at the state meet where Upshaw clocked the ninth fastest performance in meet history and the Cardinal scored just 37 points, which tied for the second lowest score in Division IV history and the 12th lowest score in meet history, regardless of classification.

“Eventually these student-athletes will leave the Reservation and they’ll be in atmospheres where they’ll be tested,” Elder said. “They’ll be treated the same or maybe even have to fight stereotypes, so learning how to race against anyone, train hard, push themselves and be outside of their comfort zone is key. And that’s what their coach is trying to get across.”