There have been several Coach of the Year awards deservedly flowing to Ruston High School track and field coach Allen Whitaker this summer, and the latest sparkles a little brighter than the others.
The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named Whitaker as the Louisiana boys Coach of the Year on Thursday as it released its list of top coaches for boys and girls high school teams in all 50 states.
Whitaker steered the Bearcats to the Class 5A state outdoor championship in May after a state runner-up finish indoors in February.
“It’s all about your support system,” the ever-modest Whitaker posted on his Facebook page. “I have countless people to thank … my assistant coaches, my athletes, the parents, my administrators, my fellow teachers, my family, my wife … it’s a pleasure to serve at Ruston High.”
Winners were selected based on their teams’ performance throughout the 2021 season, not just in state championships. Among the factors taken into consideration were team score and placement at state meets, margin of victory, performance against rankings if available, individual championships and how their teams’ performances compared to previous years.
The Bearcats topped second-place Zachary, the indoor champions, by 82.5-67 at the LHSAA state meet at Bernie Moore Track Stadium on the LSU campus May 8. A pair of runner-up finishes by the RHS boys and girls at the 2015 state meet was the previous high water mark under Whitaker’s guidance in seven seasons as head coach.
The Bearcats won the Region 1-5A championship by nearly doubling the score of runner-up Lafayette High School. The Lady Bearcats were also regional champs, topping Lafayette by 18 points. A total of 25 RHS athletes advanced to the state meet, where the Lady Bearcats finished fourth.
An astonishing 21 Ruston competitors made the composite Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State team.
The USTFCCA announcement sparked a cascade of praise for Whitaker from current and former team members, colleagues, supporters and others from around the community, state and nation, including legendary former Ruston coach Dave Anderson.
Whitaker’s coaching staff includes Kai Burrell, Dustin Cochran, Kevin Jackson and Brandon Leggio.
Former Louisiana Tech football wide receiver Johnny Giordano won the USTFCCA Louisiana girls coach of the year honor for his work at St. Louis Catholic High School, in his hometown of Lake Charles.
The USTFCCA is headquartered in New Orleans and is led by former LSU assistant coach Sam Seemes. It focuses primarily on collegiate track and field but covers the sport globally.
Photo: Allen Whitaker/Amy Vessel
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