Haskell Thanks Community After Being Named Kansas Coach of the Year

Brock Kappelmann - January 8, 2019 7:11 am

Liberal track and field coach Trace Haskell was recognized as 5A Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year this weekend in Junction City. Haskell led the Redskins to a third place finish at state and guided Dusty Torres and Austin Mullens to gold medals at state. Haskell sent the following letter to thank the community.
Liberal Community, Liberal Board of Education, and USD #480

I thought a response of more than just thank you was needed to address this award and decided it was a great opportunity to say a few things. First and foremost, many things are not possible without faith in God. And even though I’m far from perfect, I try to emulate that through all I do, teaching and coaching. There have been many challenges during my seven years as head coach here at LHS and without a foundation it would have been easy to sink in the quick sand. My foundation has been my wife Kendra; she is my rock. She gets me out of the ruts that can be hard to get out by oneself. My parents are also part of that foundation, they are the ones who taught me right from wrong. My father, Alan Haskell was a great coach, he was a man of honor, loyalty, and hard work. I admire him on a daily basis. He taught me there was far more to coaching than X’s and O’s. Seeing his relationship with his players inspired me to be a coach.

I’m extremely honored to receive this award but I would be doing a great disservice to the people that have helped me along the way if I didn’t recognize them. Someone once said you can’t be a great leader, without learning to be a great and loyal follower first. This started in high school and the leadership of Hall of Famer head coach Gary Cornelsen. It is easy to stand in awe of all the accomplishments he achieved here while the head coach of LHS football and track, but it’s the relationships he had with his assistants that didn’t go unnoticed by me even as one of his athletes. He let them do their jobs……. he believed in them,that they would accomplish the team goals he set forth for us to try to achieve. Many people also saw this and wanted to coach for him, that’s why he had so many successful assistant coaches. That’s one of the biggest aspects I value in our program…… to go after the best assistant coaches, so we can give our student-athletes the best chance to succeed in T&F and more importantly, life! It would also be a huge understatement if I didn’t mention Coach Cornelsen’s use of motivation. The way he motivated us to be the best, I feel was his best quality and the biggest reason of his success as a head coach. Words just can’t describe or do him justice on how he used motivation to get us to win. Every year I find myself trying to find new ways to motivate our athletes the way he motivated us.

The biggest reason why I started coaching track had to do with Ryan Cornelsen (Gary Cornelsen’s son) or otherwise known as“Big R” in Liberal and Pampa. It’s scary good how similar Ryan is to his dad. Ryan, like his dad, is a heck of a motivator. He also understands how to connect with kids a little bit better than his dad did. It was really fun watching his relationships with his athletes in La Crosse. Probably, a big reason why he employedso many of his former athletes at Hays and Hutchinson where hewon multiply state championships in T&F. I started out as an assistant under “Big R” in La Crosse, helping with jumps and sprints. What we faced in La Crosse was way different than what things were like when we were athletes back in the 90’s at LHS. I wasn’t used to having so few kids in a school, around 70-80. Out of those kids “R” was able to get about a third out for T&F. I give “Big R” the most credit on teaching me the foundations and knowledge of T&F itself through his leadership, motivations, and actions with his teams.

Probably the most influential coach I worked for was La Crossehead coach Jon Webster. Jon took over the football and track programs the year after “Big R” left for Hays. Jon has become La Crosse’s most successful coach winning a couple of state track titles and playing in the state championship game in football. Something that has never happened by any other coach there. The most important thing I learned from Jon was family relationships. You see, Jon was raised by a single mom. He had no father in his life to mold him into the man he is today. I learned so much about empathy and caring for our student and athletes from Jon. I had an amazing father and Ryan had a great father in Gary too. I’d never been around a situation like Jon’s. Some of the stories he can tell are life changing on how to handle some of the athletes today. This world and cultural change from the 80’s until now is ever evolving, and as coaches, if we don’t adapt and grow with our student athletes we can get left behind which leave us on the outside looking in trying to find ways to relate to our athletes. Although not very often, Jon would break down talking about Family and the importance of it while addressing our athletes. It was very moving and I cherish the time spent there with him. This past season (2018) when we finished in 3rd place at state, it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Jon and him teaching me many things I used to understand some of our challenging athletes and the difficulties they were facing outside of school and track.

Next, I want to acknowledge our staff here at Liberal High School. I really think Coach Caleb Cline started the culture of team based unity back in 2010 and shifted it back to our roots on the vision Coach Cornelsen had for the T&F program back in the late 80’s and 90’s era. The following year when I became ahead coach and joined Caleb, we made a lot of progress towards leading this program in team oriented goals. One of the key benefit’s we have over other programs is we have 2 head coaches. It’s very important that the coaches work together. I have been lucky to have colleagues that share the same passion and drive to be the best and want the best for our program. Coach Cline, McGuire, and Janel Durler have all been valuable to the success we have had the past 7 years, each one contributing in their own way and helping lead this program as co-head coaches. I’m very excited that former Liberal Redskin Marcus Calleja (a Division 2 All-American while at Emporia State University) will help our program continue to grow into the future as the new head girls coach. With all this said, our assistant coaches have been very instrumental in our success in the past. I have been very blessed and lucky to have many and I thank them for their passion to help the student-athletes better themselves both on and off the track. In fact, Russ McFall won assistant coach of the year in 2012 for hurdles. Without their help our job as head coaches would that much tougher. As stated earlier it’s our trust in them that help us focus in our particular event to coach to be able to achieve multiple things in a day.

Last, I want to thank the city and people of Liberal, my family has been part of this community for close to 50 years. This city has been very good to my family. There have been many people here that have helped us grow and develop into the people we are today. I am blessed to have a career in the city I grew up in. Many people ask why I came back. My reply has always been easy, why not. The city and people have invested in me as a player, teacher, and coach, why wouldn’t I want to give back to a place that has given my family and me so much. I love this town so much. My passion is to help this place develop some of the best men and women in athletics and more importantly inlife. This drives me to get up each and every day. To see these students succeed and gain some of the same opportunities and experiences that I have had is an amazing feeling. Life isn’t always going to go our way and watching some of our student athletes overcome adversity is such a reward in itself. Our program is so much more than Track and Field, it’s about life, living it, learning from it, and accomplishing it to help our kids become healthy members of our society. It’s not about how many times we fail, but how many times we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and learn. Thank you Liberal.


Coach Trace Haskell



Latest Stories

Liberal City Commission Meets, Moves Forward with New Commission Chambers

The Liberal City Commission met on Tuesday evening and after a Proclamation for National Economic Development...

Click It or Ticket is Just Ahead

Do you buckle up- every trip every time? Yes? Excellent! No? Why not? You do know...

Kansas Governor’s Scholar Designees Liberal High School Class of 2021

Four Liberal High School Seniors were recently recognized as Kansas Governor’s Scholar Designees. This award recognizes...