By BRETT MARSHALL
When Lindall Cox was taking a college algebra class for his master's degree in 1985-86, he was teaching at Wichita County High School in Leoti.
His instructor was Greg Cook, a teacher and coach at Greeley County High School in nearby Tribune.
Little did either realize at the time that their paths would later be intertwined when they became cross country coaches — Cook for the Jackrabbits and Cox at Holcomb High School where he moved to teach and coach in the mid 1990s.
Now, the two coaches are celebrating respective honors after being named the Kansas Coaches Association Boys and Girls Cross Country Coaches of the Year for 2008-2009.
The awards were presented to the two at the August Kansas Coaches Association conference in Topeka and the two relished the celebration with each other.
"It's very special and an extremely big honor," Cook said of the award. "I'm thankful for the kids that I've had and the good Lord has given me the chance to work with them. I'm a firm believer in that it's all about the kids and their hard work."
For Cox, the award, too, was an experience he won't soon forget.
"It's very humbling to be selected among all the coaches," Cox said. "I've had a phenomenal bunch of kids to work with and I've been blessed with a great assistant (Scott Bjurstrom) for the past six years."
Both Cook and Cox said that receiving the awards at the same time added to the joy of the ceremony.
"It's a big thrill to get the award with Lindall," Cook said.
Cook joked about the height discrepancy between the two coaches and that it just proves coaches, and good ones, can come in all shapes and sizes.
"We got our picture together and I was wanting to be taller than him," Cook explained with a big smile.
The two are inextricably connected from the 2008 cross country season when they both watched their teams capture respective state championships — Holcomb in Class 3A boys and Greeley County in 1A girls. Cook's boys team was runner-up to Ness City in the 1A state. It was the second state title for Cox (2001) and also the second in three seasons (2006) for Cook's girls. The Jackrabbits boys also brought home a team title in 2006.
"I think cross country coaches really care about developing the kids and them knowing how much you care about them, not just as athletes, but as individuals," Cox said in discussing his philosophy. "I think I've been able to do that better than I did in other sports."
Success breeds success and both Cox and Cook are enjoying the fruits of their labor. The Longhorns return all their top runners from the state title team of a year ago and remain in Class 3A for this season's state cross country.
"You've got to make it enjoyable for them but you've got to show them how to get there," said Cook, himself a successful high school runner.
Cook has been the cross country coach at Greeley County for the past 14 seasons and is in his 24th year of teaching/coaching at the school. He coached basketball for 12 years and football for two, one of which was a head coach. Cox, in his 13th season with the Longhorns, started the program from scratch and has now taken his team to the state meet 10 consecutive years.
The result has been two of the most successful cross country programs in southwest Kansas for the past 15 years.