For the first time in nearly five decades, the Flathead Braves will be looking for a new cross country coach.
Hall of Fame coach Paul Jorgensen announced his retirement at the high school after 45 years of service, coaching the boys and girls teams to 24 state championships in that span. Jorgensen has served as the boys coach since 1973 and as the girls coach from 1977-2013.
In his time as coach, Jorgensen has coached 10 individual state champions, including 2002 national champion Zoe Nelson. He coached the Bravettes to 13 state titles and the Braves to 11 titles, earning the teams a national ranking eight times (five with the boys, three with the girls), the Braves holding the No. 1 position in 1985.
He’s estimated that he’s taken more than 200 kids to regional championships in the Western U.S.
He was named national coach of the year twice, in 2010 for girls cross country and in 2008 for boys cross country, and was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003, only the seventh coach from the state to earn the honor at the time.
“Paul has worked to build a great tradition of cross country running at Flathead, we hope to build on his incredible foundation,” Flathead activities director Bryce Wilson said in a press release.
“He has been a dedicated coach with the highest values and morals. Words cannot express our gratitude or our thanks to him for his efforts throughout the years.”
“I probably logged a million miles since I started coaching. I probably won’t miss the bus rides, but I’ll miss the kids,” Jorgensen said.
“Being a head coach of any sport is demanding. I loved coaching the kids, I loved the families that I became associated with over the years and appreciate all that. I decided now was a good time.”
Jorgensen was also a junior high basketball coach for a stretch, in addition to his work with the cross country and track teams.
Jorgensen, 72, plans on finishing out the year as a distance coach on the track team.
Wilson said the school will begin the process for hiring a new coach immediately.