SERGEANT BLUFF – It has been a perfect match from the beginning.
Monte Larsen was graduating from Morningside College and looking for a teaching and coaching job. Sergeant Bluff-Luton was looking for just that and the rest has turned into success in the years that have followed.
“I was debating if I wanted to stay around Sioux City because I ran at Morningside or if I wanted to head back home, and I saw the Sergeant Bluff fifth grade teacher opening along with cross country, it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Larsen, who was a four-time national champion and 12-time All-American for the Mustangs. “I got the (assistant track) opening the second year and the rest is kind of history.”
Larsen has led the cross county program since 2013 and just completed his first season as the head track and field coach after serving as an assistant since 2015. This fall he led the boys cross country team to its highest state finish of ninth and the boys track team secured a third-place team trophy at the state track meet.
Those efforts helped Larsen earn the Journal’s Track and Field/Cross Country Coaching Staff of the Year honor.
“I don’t really deserve a ton of credit, I came in on a good spot on the boys side of things because the program was built up pretty well from the last couple of years,” he said. “We have a really good group of juniors and seniors this year that made my job and the assistant coaches’ jobs easier. They work so hard and are in multiple sports and lift year around.”
One thing Larsen has shown is that he can get kids excited about running as he has increased numbers in both cross country and track.
“I moved up to teach seventh grade math now and that is when sports are starting,” he said. “So in the hallways and in class a little bit I just talk up the sports a little bit. All the coaches at Sergeant Bluff are in agreement that we just want to get kids out for sports no matter what.”
Larsen took over a cross country program that had never reached the state meet until last year when the boys’ team finished 13th. That placing was improved to ninth this past fall, and Larsen said the next goal is to get the girls’ team to Fort Dodge in the near future.
On the track, Larsen has seen success not only with individual state champions like Jorma Schwedler in the 200 meters and Madison Harms in the high jump, but with the overall direction of the program.
“On the girls’ side of things, there is a lot more overall talk in a positive way with our girls,” he said. “We set goals before conference because we were projected for 29 points on paper. … It was exciting to see the girls get excited about track because I think it has been a while since that has happened.”
The success that the track team has enjoyed in recent years has led to the Warriors re-evaluating their schedule as it is a program and school district that continues to grow.
“We actually got asked not to come of those smaller meets after last year which I understand because we are a bigger school than them,” Larsen said. “We took that as a compliment because we have been having so much success at those meets and bigger meets. So our push this year was to get into more 3A/4A meets.”
So do his athletes know they are running for one of the best that Morningside has ever produced?
“They go to Morningside and there are a few banners with my name on it so they will poke a little fun at me,” he said. “They went and watched me at Sioux City Relays this year and I wasn’t near as fast as I used to be so they made fun of me for that. I am getting older but I can still hang with most of them right now.”