By BEN JOHNSON
Elzy Miller enjoyed a pretty low-key evening in Norman this past weekend.
“We went to a place in Norman called The Mont,” Miller said. “...We just went to eat. It was kind of uneventful.”
You’d never know that earlier in the day Miller was named the OTCA Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“It’s just an honor and your fellow coaches are the ones who vote for that,” said Miller, the patriarch of Tahlequah’s cross country program, which was established by Miller 32 years ago. “It’s a vote of your peers and they elect you. That kind of says a lot.”
Miller, 62, was the only girls coach to receive the accolade, while Marlow’s Bobby Wortham picked up Coach of the Year honors on the boys side.
For Miller, it’s his third time to be named Coach of the Year. The last time he received it was in 1987.
“It’s not something I set out as a goal to do,” Miller said. “But I have a group of hard-working kids. That stands out. It’s a reflection of the hard-working kids we have here.”
Paced by Jessica Hembree’s third state championship in four years, Tahlequah came in second at the Class 5A state meet this past October. The Lady Tigers were 20 points off Metro Christian’s state-title pace.
Leading up to the state meet, Tahlequah won the 5A regional meet in Tulsa, with Hembree winning the regional crown and Gracie Medellin and Amy Hembree both recording top-10 finishes.
The regional and state meets were a small sample size of Tahlequah’s largely successful campaign in 2012.
“We stayed up there at the top all year,” Miller said. “Every meet we went to, we didn’t finish any worse than third. Jess was a big factor there, I’m sure.”
With Jenks (6A), Metro Christian, Mount Saint Mary (4A), Plainview (3A) and Tonkawa (2A) all winning state crowns in the fall, Miller figured a coach from one of those five schools would snag the year’s top coaching kudos.
“When I walked in and was told I was selected, I was surprised — but honored at the same time,” Miller said. “It solidifies where we’re at statewide. We’re coming back and we’re back to being a potential threat when we step up to the start line.”
While initially being shocked when finding out about the award, Miller said he’s going to cherish it — and certainly not hand it back over.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Anytime you get elected to something like this, it has to mean something.
“I sure wouldn’t want to give it back, that’s for sure.”