Susan Loeffler of Bigfork was named the National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) National Coach of the Year for girls track on Wednesday evening.
Loeffler was present for the announcement at the National Coach of the Year Awards Banquet during the NHSACA’s national convention at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota.
She was one of eight NHSACA regional finalists for girls track.
“I was real nervous before they announced it,” Loeffler said.
“Then I was shocked when I heard it. There were a lot of great people at this. It’s amazing you are considered part of that.”
And that’s when the once-in-a-lifetime moment became very emotional for her.
“I started crying,” she said.
Then she hugged her husband Wayne, a former Bigfork coach and activities director.
“He was a big part of me getting this,” she said.
“He filled out the paper work.”
The Montana Coaches Association (MCA) nominated Loeffler for the national honor.
“I want to thank Don Olson for me getting this far,” she said.
Olson is the executive director for the MCA.
Loeffler was also a NHSACA National Coach of the Year finalist for cross country in 2017.
She began her coaching career in 1974 at Bigfork High School after her graduation from Montana State University. Bigfork, which has competed in Class A and B, has won 13 district championships, 11 divisional titles and three state championships during her stay. Her teams finished second at state three times and third twice.
Loeffler has coached 28 athletes to individual state titles and eight relay teams.
The 2015 Bigfork team scored 110 points at state. Only one other Class B state championship team has ever scored more.
Loeffler has been a MCA coach of the year nominee 13 times, winning the award on three occasions. She was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014.
According to the NHSACA press release, finalists are recognized for their longevity in coaching, service to high school athletics, honors, championship years and winning percentage. Finalists are then evaluated by experts in the field of coaching using a sport-specific rubrics to assign points in each category to determine the winner. It awards National Coach of the Year awards in 19 sports/activities.
The NHSACA is the oldest coaches association in the nation formed by coaches, for coaches, and has been recognizing national coaches of the year since 1978.
Loeffler was a state track champion and record holder in the 220-yard dash in high school in Havre and later ran on a NCAA national championship 400 relay team for Flathead Valley Community College (1970-71).
Honored coaches at the NHSACA convention gave presentations during the day. Loeffler gave one on coaching sprinters.
“One of the things that makes this (National Coach of the Year award) special is that people you don’t even know are looking at what you have done, your achievements,” she said.
“One thing that impressed me the most, looking back, was people coming up to me to say they were rooting for me (to win it) and I didn’t even know who they were. It happened with four or five people. I had no clue who they were or even if they were from Montana. They said they liked my presentation. I was a nervous wreck for that.”