I have written many times that the really great teams are reflections of their coaches, and that is certainly the case with the Blue Springs boys state championship track and field team.
Wildcats coach Joe Cusack is one of the most passionate coaches on the planet, and his kids feed off that passion and commitment.
So, it’s four weeks into the falls sports season – which focuses on football at Blue Springs High School – so why mention Cusack and his 2016 state championship track and field team?
That’s because the National Track and Field and Cross Country Association just named Cusack the Missouri Boys Coach of the Year.
“We are thrilled that Coach Cusack won that award,” Blue Springs principal Bob Jerome said. “He is so passionate about everything Blue Springs. Not just the kids he coaches, but everything Blue Springs – you see Coach Cusack at every event that takes place at our high school, and that is one reason he is so special.
“He is also a great coach and a great teacher and a great man. We are so, so fortunate to have him here at our high school.”
In typical Cusack fashion, the man who has led his team to three state championships in the past four years – and brought home a team trophy from state each of the past six seasons – deflects the accomplishments to his staff and performers.
“What has taken place with our track program – and the many, many, many congratulations I have received from our staff and administors in winning this award is a reflection of our staff, athletes, parents, faculty and the coaches of all our sports because we work as a family.
“Our guys who play football get bigger and stronger and more explosive – working with the football team in the weight room. We want to develop great athletes and great young men who will go on and do great things in the community. And we want to develop a family atmosphere where everyone feels special. It takes all of us working together, or it doesn’t happen.”
Last year’s state championship set off a wild celebration as the 1,600 relay team – running in the final event at Jefferson City – scored enough points to edge defending state champion Lafayette-Wildwood 70-66.
“We did this for Coach Cusack,” senior Tyree King said, after his 1,600 relay team’s second-place finish in the last event of the night secured the victory. “We love Coach Cusack, and we were all disappointed when we finished third last year. We told him we were going to win it for him this year, and we did.”
But the success on the track is just a part of the message Cusack sends his performers.
“We always look forward to Coach Cusack and his team coming to our hotel,” said Abby, who works the front desk at the Doubletree Inn in downtown Jefferson City. “We have never had a problem with any of his athletes, and they are all so polite and respectful. We love seeing them when they come to state.”
Then there was the incident in Springfield, Mo., when the Wildcats saw a homeless man following a big track meet. They collected $50 from their own meal money and gave it to the less fortunate soul so he could have a meal that night.
And an elderly couple approached Cusack at a little barbecue joint he likes to take the team to every year. They told the coach how the players allowed the couple to cut in front of them in line so they would not have to wait.
“Those are the things that make you feel good – good about your guys on, and off the track,” said Cusack, who is entering his 11th year at Blue Springs. “I love these guys. There’s nothing me or any of our coaches wouldn’t do for them.”