2020 USTFCCCA National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year

Like many collegiate and high school coaches, all Aaron Olswanger of Boise (Idaho) High School and Andrew Tripp of U-32 (Vt.) High School wanted was a chance for their athletes to compete during the fall. Olswanger and Tripp knew that, if given an opportunity to toe the starting line in some form or fashion, their athletes would shine.

Well, Olswanger and Tripp were right and their teams’ success on the grass circuit led them to being named the National High School Cross Country Coaches of the Year Presented by the United States Marine Corps on Tuesday 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 (Calif.)
Kelly Bia
St. Michael Indian (Ariz.)
2018
Mark Stenbeck
Dakota Ridge HS (Colo.)
Carol McLatchie
Summit HS (Oregon)
2017
Marc Hunter
Loudoun Valley HS (Va.)
Brian Zaring
Keller (Texas) HS
2016
Casey Jermyn
Bozeman HS (Montana)
Jeff Messer
Desert Vista HS (Arizona)
2015
Doug Soles
Great Oaks HS (California)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius HS (New York)
2014
Bill Miles
Wayzata HS (Minnesota)
Bill Aris
Fayetteville-Manlius HS (New York)

A “humbled” Olswanger, the National Girls Coach of the Year, is the first from Idaho to win the award. A “shocked” Tripp, the National Boys Coach of the Year, is the first from Vermont to receive the recognition.

“When I got this award, I kind of laughed – I don’t feel worthy in some ways,” Tripp said. “I don’t consider myself to be the best coach in the program – let alone state. That would be Mark Chaplin, who has won 48 state championships and is retiring at the end of this year. I feel as if we all stand on someone’s shoulders – if we do something as an individual – and right now I am on the shoulders of a giant, because that’s what Mark is in this state and to this sport.”

Tripp’s Raiders were dominant as could be at the 2020 Vermont Cross Country Championships, held on a challenging course at Thetford Academy. U-32 athletes swept the top-7 spots of the Boys Division 2 Championship as they scored 15 points and had a nine-second spread between their top-5 runners (Jacob Miller-Arsenault earned the individual title in 17:18.0).

“These guys epitomize our phrase: ‘It’s a team sport,’” Tripp told the Barre Montpelier Times Argus after the race. “They train together and hold each other accountable year-round. They run for each other and for the group. Finishing all together was more proof that together we really are stronger.”

And, it was because of that team atmosphere that Tripp didn’t worry about his athletes during the difficult summer or fall months when all they could do was train solo or in small groups due to various protocols put in place by the state due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It brought us closer together, as a team, and allowed us, as coaches, to kind of sit back and see these young men grow and take ownership of the team and their training,” Tripp said. “We would still write plans for them, but when you saw a senior meeting up with a freshman on his own accord or guys really hammering solo time trials, when those were the rules, was great.”

Like Tripp, Olswanger knew his athletes would do what they had to do on their own, since “they did that regardless,” yet felt the pandemic “really narrowed their focus, because it allowed them to focus on recovery and training without the typical social pressures facing high school kids.”

Once the state of Idaho eventually green-lighted the season, Olswanger sensed something big on the horizon for the Brave – not only for the fact that they were the two-time defending champs.

“We met in small groups for like three weeks in the summer before things closed again and, during that time, I realized we had a great dynamic,” Olswanger said. “Everybody, from our two really solid freshmen to our amazing senior leaders, bought in and said they would do whatever it takes to be on top of that podium again.”

It didn’t take long for Boise High School to start clicking, as Olswanger called racing and training together “their happy place.” The Brave made quick work of their first three meets and earned the No. 1 ranking from MileSplit on September 30. From there, more success followed as Boise High School took the District III 5A title by 68 points and won the ensuing state crown with a near-perfect 18 points (The Brave went 1-2-3-5-7 with its next two runners 11th and 15th).

“I figured we’d score 23 to 25 points, conservatively,” Olswanger told the Idaho Press after the meet. “That’s by far a (state) record. To score 18 points and go 1-2-3 is just ridiculous.”