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Nation’s best: Kernels’ Rew wins top coaching award

Mitchell Head Coach Audra Rew, center, and Assistant Coach Christine Wittstruck cheer on a floor exercise performance at the Class AA State Gymnastics Meet Feb. 10, 2017 in Aberdeen. Rew was honored as the national coach of the year in gymnastics on Wednesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS -- Audra Rew added an impressive honor to her coaching résumé on Wednesday.

The Mitchell High School gymnastics coach received the national coach of the year award as awarded by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Rew was recognized in the special sports category, which covers various sports which don’t have a specific award category each year.

Rew received the honor at the NHSACA’s national convention in Sioux Falls.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words of what goes through your mind,” Rew told The Daily Republic. “I think you kind of flashback to all the years and all the kids that have gone through the program. You kind of just remember everybody that has come before you and all the time and energy that has gone into it. I am just absolutely humbled by the honor.”

Rew was one of eight finalists for the honor. Rew is a four-time MHS coach of the year and was up for the national coach of the year award for the second time.

“I really just feel humbled listened to all the amazing coaches biographies that were listed off (Wednesday),” Rew said. “It’s just an honor to be in the same room as them, much less be awarded the coach of the year award.”

Rew, who has coached the Kernels for 12 seasons, has coached Mitchell to six Class AA state championships (2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018) and six Eastern South Dakota Conference championships. Mitchell has finished in the top-six in the state each of the first 12 years Rew has coached, including nine finishes in the top-three places at the state meet.

Rew praised the athletes and assistant coaches for building up the program. She also thanked the parents for their support during her tenure.

“I feel like we are just one great big team,” Rew said. “Our passion has always been to build a program in Mitchell and we’ve done that and we are not finished. We still want more, but it is pretty exciting to see what we have done as a group.”

She’s the second Kernel coach to receive the honor. Legendary Mitchell High School boys basketball coach Gary Munsen received the honor in 2013. The NHSACA has given out the national awards since 1978.

Rew has coached 18 individual state champions and has been a part of seven state championship teams — six as the head coach and one as an assistant.

This selection was based on longevity, service to high school athletics, honors, championship years and winning percentage. The nominees and finalists are evaluated by experts in the field of coaching using sport-specific rubrics to assign points in each category.