Sports

Sue Loeffler Named National Coach of the Year

Veteran cross country and track coach is first woman from Flathead Valley to win award

Longtime Bigfork coach Sue Loeffler was named the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year in late June, becoming the first woman from the Flathead Valley to win national coaching honors.

Loeffler has coached at Bigfork her entire professional career, a tenure that began in 1974 and has included a bevy of accolades and achievements. She was inducted into the Montana Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2004 and most recently won a state coach of the year award in 2018, following a second straight Class B girls track title for her Valkyries. All told in her 45-year career, Loeffler’s teams have won 10 state championships in cross country and track, and she has mentored dozens of elite runners, including sisters Makena and Bryn Morley, who combined to win seven consecutive state cross country titles.

Loeffler retired as a physical education teacher and Bigfork’s cross country coach following the 2017-18 school year but is still the head coach of the boys and girls track and field teams.

Loeffler is both the first woman from the valley to win the NHSACA award and the first Bigfork coach to be so honored. She joins fellow local coaches Bob Raeth (Flathead), Dan Hodge (Flathead), Paul Jorgenson (Flathead), Joe McKay (Flathead), Terry Nelson (Whitefish) and Derek Schulz (Whitefish) as the region’s sole honorees, in any sport, since the NHSACA award was founded in 1978.