Andrew Tripp, the boys cross country coach at U-32 High School, was named the National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year on Tuesday by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, an award sponsored by the United States Marine Corps.
A “shocked” Tripp is the first coach 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 at the 2020 Vermont Cross Country Championships, held on a challenging course at Thetford Academy. The U-32 athletes swept the top seven spots of the boys Division II Championship as they scored 15 points and had a nine-second spread between their top-five 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 Times Argus newspaper 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 as a result of various protocols put in place by the state because of 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.”