Lyngaas finalist for national honor
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Former Valley coach Lowell Lyngaas celebrates the news that he is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s (NHSACA) Coach of the Year award in girls’ cross country. Lyngaas waited several weeks to make the public announcement for when North Fayette Valley played basketball at Postville, so the girls from Valley could be present and could share in the moment. As Lyngaas explained, “After all, without them and all the girls who preceded them at Valley, I wouldn’t be up for the award; they are the ones who really made this honor possible.” With Coach Lyngaas are (clockwise from back) Jade Daughton, Shelby Lehmann, Leah Reierson and Kim Rounds. (Jerry Wadian photo)
Lyngaas finalist for national honor
By Jerry Wadian
Former Valley head cross country and girls’ track coach Lowell Lyngaas has been nominated for another national honor.
The National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) has named Lyngaas one of its eight finalists for Girls’ Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Lyngaas, who is currently head boys’ cross country coach and assists in football, girls’ basketball and track at Postville Community High School, knew of the nomination for some weeks, but deferred a public announcement until North Fayette Valley came to Postville for basketball games.
“I wanted the girls from Valley to be present at the announcement, so they could share in the moment.” Lyngaas explained. “After all, without them and all the girls who preceded them at Valley, I wouldn’t be up for the award; they are the ones who really made this honor possible.”
What makes the honor doubly important is the fact that this is the second time the NHSACA has made Lyngaas a final candidate. He was up for the award in 2011, coming close, but there is only one winner.
Part of the criteria for Coach of the Year is one’s record, and Lyngaas had a stellar career over 26 years at Valley. In cross country his record, according to NHSACA standards, was 2420-1221 (66.5 winning percentage), including 49 district conference, and invitational titles; and at the State Cross Country Meet, he won three state titles, a second, and two third places.
However, as Lyngaas pointed out in 2011, “The level of competition was unbelievable. There were Hall of Fame-winning coaches in the field.”
The other seven finalists this year are just as impressive as 2011. However, Lyngaas has an advantage he did not have three years ago because some rules have changed.
Now, the “Race Across America” that Lyngaas founded is considered to be a national event and goes in the NHSACA resume. Also, many of the community service projects in which he has been involved, as well as talks and clinics that he has given can be considered.
The final competition is always in the home state of the association’s reigning president, in June, Lyngaas will travel to Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Among the many activities the judges require of the candidates is a speech to the national convention on a topic of their choice.
Lyngaas is already working on his address, with a tentative title of “Bubble Wrap.”
The heart of the speech is a concept dear to the former Valley mentor’s heart; how to improve and motivate athletes.
“Actually, it’s about how to inspire athletes and coaches,” Lyngaas clarified.
“In my travels, I’ve really gained a lot of respect for Iowa coaches and sports events. We have a lot going on in the state. Our State Track and Field Meet is the biggest event of its kind in the country, and the State Cross Country Meet is one of the biggest.
“However, I see more and more coaches coddling athletes, in the sense they don’t work hard enough to get the best out of the kids. Frequently we allow average athletes to stay average and either overcoach the really good athlete or allow that person to rely solely on their athleticism.
“I’d like to see us work harder to draw out the best in all our athletes,” the Coach of the Year candidate explained.
The title of “Bubble Wrap” may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but the content reminds one of a line from the movie, “Invictus” when the Nelson Mandela character asks the nations rugby coach, “How can you make them better than they think they can be?”
It is a question Lyngaas has pondered for over 25 years. He spoke to the national convention about this three years ago and received a standing ovation.
Perhaps this year he will earn another such ovation, and perhaps he might win; many people hope so.
Whatever the outcome in June, Lyngaas will be busy throughout the rest of his coaching career in “bubble wrap,” trying to find ways to make kids better athletes and better people.