Brian Anderson has been coaching for 32 years now. He’s coached all sorts of sports, too.
Football. Wrestling. Track. Basketball. Gymnastics.
Nothing ever topped the thrill of leading a cross country team.
“Oh, by far,” said Anderson, who just completed his sixth year as head coach of Lawrence High’s cross country team. “I’m just a distance runner at heart.”
The LHS coach’s passion and enthusiasm shone through more than ever in 2008, as he helped lead this year’s boys team to an exceptional season that was capped by the first Class 6A state championship in school history.
Now he’s also the Journal-World’s all-area cross country coach of the year.
And according to LHS senior cross country co-captain Ben Wilson, there isn’t a more deserving coach for either honor than Anderson.
That stems from Anderson’s love for the sport, and more importantly, a genuine interest in his runners, which extends far beyond regular practice times and meets. When Wilson — who practiced after school with the Lions’ football team his sophomore and junior seasons — wanted to participate in cross country, Anderson found a way to make it happen.
He woke up early every school day to meet Wilson at 5:45 a.m. at LHS, before the sun peaked through the darkness, to guide Wilson through workouts. As a sophomore, Wilson did not know the routes the Lions team had to run. So Anderson ran with him to show Wilson the way.
“He’s everything,” Wilson said. “He’s like a behind the scenes guy that does all the little things you don’t really know about. He’s that guy who never stops working.”
Anderson said he never ran cross country in high school. As an athlete growing up in Durango, Colo., the sport wasn’t even offered. Instead, he chose skiing, where he specialized in Nordic combined, an event consisting of ski-jumping and cross-country skiing.
But cross-country running presented a unique appeal to Anderson.
“It’s the closest to what I did in high school,” Anderson said.
And he’s been coaching it in Lawrence for the past 21 years, first as an assistant at Central Junior High, two years at LHS, one during Free State High’s inaugural year and five more years at LHS before being named head coach of the Lions in 2003.
Wilson said Anderson’s energy and devotion to his teams, coupled with a vast knowledge of cross-country running made for a terrific experience.
“For me to be that senior captain to give him that first state title, it meant so much to me,” Wilson said. “Because without him, none of that is possible.”