Big Lake’s Todd Trutna was named the Minnesota Boys’ Cross Country Coach of the Year by the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) for 2021. He was originally recognized in May of this year with a plaque, and was recently recognized by the district superintendent during a school board meeting.
Trutna has been a teacher and a coach for Big Lake for 29 years. He has been involved with cross country for 28 of those years. Trutna was named the head coach of the team in 2020, after the previous long-time coach John Bruns stepped down. Trutna said Bruns was a wonderful mentor to him in coaching and working with the kids, and said the coach of the year award is as much for Bruns as it was for him, with the effort Bruns has put into building up the team over the years.
Trutna said the award was given mainly due to the success of the team last year, the team having won the state class AA championship. The team had an amazing year, having competed, and won, eight times against runner-up in class AA, Monticello.
“We peaked at the right time,” Trutna said. “The coach often gets the merit, but it’s the athletes who put in the work.”
Trutna says the key to being a great coach is to make it all about the relationships with the students, and setting goals for each individual. Every athlete can attain his or her best in a season. For some, the height of their success means becoming a state champion. For others, it can simply mean completing a race without walking. The important thing is for the athletes to take pride in meeting their goals.
“I just love it,” Trutna said, referring to working with the student athletes. “The best part of my day is to work with individuals who really want to be here.“
Trutna had a great example for being an excellent coach in his father, who was also previously named a coach of the year.
Also aiding in the team’s success are the wonderful assistant coaches. Trutna says all of his coaches have previously been head coaches in one sport or another and always put the athlete first. These include Jean Hagberg, Steve Leuer, and Andy Noble.
On top of being a coach, Trutna has worked as a teacher for the Big Lake School District for 29 years. He is a seventh grade life science teacher. Trutna grew up in Sauk Centre. He and his wife currently live in Big Lake and have two adult kids.