In just his third year as the head cross country coach at Columbia Falls High School, Jim Peacock was recently named the 2018 Montana Coaches Association Class A Cross Country Coach of the Year after guiding the Wildcats to a state title last season.
“To me, the Coach of the Year award has always been a really big reflection on your team. It is more of a team award than a coach award. I am lucky enough to coach a really neat group of kids, boys and girls,” Peacock said about the recognition.
Peacock has been coaching basketball at the high school since the 2005-06 season, but took on cross country at the junior high seven years ago after retiring from his career as a golf course superintendent. After three years at the junior high, Peacock spent one year as an assistant for the high school squad before taking over as head coach in 2016.
For Peacock, a cross country runner in high school and college, his new job was a dream come true.
“I have always really wanted to coach cross country. It was the main sport that I always wanted to have an opportunity to coach, but I did not have a career that allowed me to work and coach at the same time until recently,” he said.
While Peacock was flattered to win the award, he says it is more of a reflection of the kids he coaches and the people in and around the program.
“An award like this, the first thing it made me reflect on was what a nice situation I am in to have good people all around me,” he said. “I have a lot of support from my athletic director, Troy Bowman, and from the parents. I also have a great assistant coach in Nia Vestal, who takes care of a lot of details for me. It’s not my award, it’s an award for the whole program.”
As for this year’s success, Peacock says it all come down to the hard work and determination of his “herd of turtles,” a term he borrowed from his high school cross country coach, Sam Sampson.
“These kids work so dang hard, from top to bottom. We spend a lot of time in cross country talking about how you should just do your best and improve and all of our kids did that this year, from the varsity level down,” he said. “They enjoy the process and do all the little things right. We were lucky enough this year to have some kids with speed to go with those great values.”
Peacock admits that getting high school athletes to run cross country can be a challenge, but the ones who do take on the challenge make his job well worth it.
“Everybody is scared of it. First-time cross country runners are scared to death of it. I hear it every day, ‘Peacock, I hate running.’ I tell them to come out anyway. I say they might not like the running, but they will like cross country,” he said. “The kids it attracts are the kids that work hard, but also enjoy having fun. It’s all about the camaraderie while working your butt off with a lot of other neat people. It takes a special kind of kid and I am lucky to get to coach those kids. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”