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Scotland assistant Luikens earns national award

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Coaching track and field was Mary Ellen Luikens' life for 39 years.

On Wednesday, she was named the assistant coach of the year in girls sports at the National High School Athletic Coaches Association's 49th annual meeting/seminar Wednesday in Jackson, Wyo.

"I was very shocked and very thrilled," Luikens said Thursday. "I always put kids first and wanted the athletes to reach their highest potential. Coaching is always in my heart."

The event was attended by athletic directors and coaches in 19 sports from throughout the United States.

Luikens was named a finalist in January as the state's assistant coach of the year. To be considered for this award, a nominee has been determined to have outstanding coaching longevity and win-loss record, championship years, awards received and service to the coaching profession and to the athletes of South Dakota.

Luikens retired from teaching and coaching after the 2012-13 season and was the throwers' coach for Scotland's track and field program, leading some of the top throwers in the state.

"She was dedicated and understood the events really well," Scotland head track and field coach Gary Pepper, who worked alongside Luikens for more than 30 years. "We've had some success in the last 15 years and a lot of that had to do with the shot putters and discus throwers. She trained them well."

South Dakota had two other national winners, including Sturgis' Steve Keszler as wrestling coach of the year and Vermillion's Mark Upward as gymnastics coach of the year.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.