XC: Jeff Morris named national coach of the year
PERHAM, Minn. - For the second time in three years, a Perham coach is receiving national attention.
Perham boys cross country coach Jeff Morris was named the National High School Coaches Association's coach of the year after guiding the Yellowjackets to a Minnesota Class 1A state title last week and the Division II NHSCA Championship awarded by xcnation.com.
The state title is the fourth for the boys' program under Morris' direction. The national title is the first of any kind for Perham-Dent Public School's athletic programs.
Twitter was abuzz with the announcement Wednesday evening.
"So incredibly blessed to have had six amazing years under (Coach Morris)," senior Mark Huebsch said. "He deserves the national coach of the year more than anyone."
"We have the best coach ever," senior Ciarrin Covington said.
Morris was one of five finalists for the award and joins Perham head basketball coach Dave Cresap in gaining a national coach of the year honor.
"We went out there and they were prepared and they did what they were very capable of doing," Morris said of his team at St. Olaf after the state meet. "It was just so much fun. I'm really excited."
Cresap won the award from maxpreps.com in 2011 when the Perham boys basketball team won the state championship.
The announcement from xcnation.com was slated to be given in December, but the dominating performance from this year's team made an early announcement possible.
"We all felt comfortable with the choice," said xcnation.com co-founder David Taylor. "To take a school that size and make a ranking as high overall requires a level of coaching far above that of the norm or even the elite. It is anomalous so we submitted the name for boys cross country."
Perham's cross country title avenged a one-point loss in the 2011 final, a motivating factor for a team that avenged that defeat by running one of the top five races in state meet history. By way of Morris' direction, the team set out on a mission from November 2011 not to be denied this year's trophy.
"That one point, you know, that was on us all year long and now that we've beat 'em it just feels so good," senior Dalton Dahms said. "It was just so much fun being out there with all the guys."
Today (Thursday, Nov. 8) at 5 p.m. CST, on the NHSCA National High School Sports Hour, (link with this story) host Jeff Fisher talks with Morris about Perham's season. The show can be listened to live or in the archives (show #347).
According to Taylor, xcnation.com will feature Perham in an annual series beginning December 15 titled "the Program".
The intent is to have the seven varsity runners and coach share a bi-monthly individual message on their team and program.
"It should be fun and it will keep Perham's name recognition growing, as well as show other programs how to be successful," Taylor said.
The national championship trophy should arrive in Perham Friday and the banner next week.
A tentative date of Friday, Nov. 30 has been scheduled to present the trophy and banner during the Minnehaha Academy/Perham boys' basketball game.
In a bit of irony, Minnehaha Academy cross country is a rather heated rival with the Perham boys' team next to the annual battles with St. Cloud Cathedral.
More on the date of the presentation will be announced when confirmed.