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BEE’s VanLeur is finalist for national award

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football coach Jeff VanLeur said he's been surrounded with the best. VanLeur is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association football coach of the year award. It's the first time VanLeur has been no...

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Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Jeff VanLeur is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association football coach of the year award. (Republic file photo)

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football coach Jeff VanLeur said he’s been surrounded with the best.

VanLeur is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association football coach of the year award.

It’s the first time VanLeur has been nominated for the honor and he praised those around him for being a finalist.

“I learned a long time ago if you surround yourself with good people and good things will happen,” VanLeur said. “I have got the best as far as I am concerned surrounding me all the time and they do a great job for me and we’ve had great kids. They’ve worked hard and done what we’ve asked and something like this all goes back to the assistant coaches and kids that played and put the time in for me.”

The Seahawks coach has definitely put in the time. He’s been coaching since 1980 in part because the desire to be around athletics was still there after graduating from Woonsocket.  

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What’s the most rewarding part of his job?

“Just seeing those kids mature from the time they are freshmen and getting that self belief in their eye and taking that step and getting the best out of them,” VanLeur said.

VanLeur said he still has the same desire and passion from when he first began coaching 39 years ago. It’s a big reason why he continues to lead the Seahawks.

“I’ve always said that as soon as this thing becomes a job I am retiring,” VanLeur said. “I am getting out and it hasn’t become a job. It’s something I enjoy doing and I like working with the kids and being part of the coaching staff.”

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 the State of South Dakota.

Menno’s Cindee Mutchelknaus is up for the assistant in girls sports award. Mutchelknaus also reflected on her athletes and coaches when she was named a finalist.

“I think a lot about the athletes that I have had in the past and also the coaches I have worked with because actually when I started coaching it wasn’t really on my radar,” Mutchelknaus said. “I am runner and they were in need of a distance coach.”

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That was 18 years ago and all at Menno. She’s the head cross-country coach and the assistant track and field coach.

“I really have embraced it and loved working with the kids,” Mutchelknaus said. “As a teacher you get to see a different side of your students when you are coaching and I really like that.”

As a finalist everyone will be honored at the National Awards Banquet to be held at the NHSACA 54th Annual Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. This annual event is attended by athletic directors and coaches in 18 sports from throughout the United States.

The other South Dakota finalists include: Eric Pooley, Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in the sport of boys cross country; Dawn Seiler, Aberdeen Central High School in the sport of girls basketball; Troy Sturgeon, Brandon Valley High School in the sport of girls’ track & field; Casie King, Sioux Valley High School in the sport of competitive cheer (Special Sports); Tom Krueger, Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in the sport of tennis; Jim Hill, Spearfish High School in the sport of soccer; Shawn Lewis, Pierre High School in the sport of wrestling; Richard Donovan, Groton Area High School assistant in boys’ sports and Bill Clements, Dakota Valley High School Athletic Director. Georgia Adolph of Flandreau and Vic Godfrey of Watertown will be inducted into the NHSACA Hall of Fame at the convention.

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