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Schrag earns No. 1 spot on TSN Best of Best Coaches cross country list

By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Former Topeka West coach Joe Schrag, who earned not only state but national acclaim for a legendary career that spanned more than four decades, earned the No. 1 spot on TopSports.news' Top 10 Best of the Best Coaches list for cross country, narrowly edging out former Hayden perennial state contenders Kathy Strecker and Ben Meseke.

JoeSchragFormer Topeka West coach Joe Schrag has been honored by five halls of fame for his legendary four-decade career with the Chargers, winning eight state championships in cross country and track. [Submitted]

KathyStreckerFormer Hayden coach Kathy Strecker led the Wildcat girls to six state titles over three decades before moving on to the college level at Rockhurst. [Hayden High]

BenMesekeBen Meseke

BobCamienBob Camien

Schrag coached West's boys for 41 seasons and the Charger girls for 29, earning induction into the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame as well as four other halls of fame.

Schrag led West to four state championships as well as five second-place finishes and coached West to a total of eight state championships in cross country and track and field.

Strecker and Meseke were a one-two coaching punch for Hayden, with the Wildcat legends leading Hayden to six state championships apiece spanning three decades.

Rounding out the top five are former Seaman coach Bob Camien and current Viking coach Rick Brading, who both led Seaman teams to state titles.

Schrag also earned the No. 1 spot in the Reader's Choice poll, winning by more than 600 votes, while current Washburn Rural coach Matt Swedlund and Strecker finished second and third in balloting by TSN readers.

A five-person panel of current and past sports media professionals with more than 150 years of combined experience met to help determine the final Best of the Best Top 10.

Former longtime Washburn Rural coach Scott Shufelberger is No. 6 on the Best of the Best list while his former star runner, Swedlund, is No. 7.

Longtime former Shawnee Heights coach Fred Wiens is No. 8, followed by Bob Karr and Ken Darting, who led Seaman's boys and Silver Lake's girls to state championships in the late 1970s.

Here's a look at the Top 10 and Readers Choice Awards:

TSN TOP 10 BEST OF THE BEST CROSS COUNTRY COACHES

1. Joe Schrag -- Schrag coached Topeka West's boys cross country team for 41 years and the girls for 29 seasons and is a member of the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame as well as the Kansas High School Activities Association, Kansas Relays, Topeka Shawnee County and Topeka West shrines. Schrag led West to four state titles over three decades as well as five second-place state finishes.

2. Kathy Strecker -- Strecker led Hayden to state championships in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2012 before moving on to Rockhurst University where she is an assistant athletic director and the head cross country coach.

3. Ben Meseke -- Meseke, who also coached Hayden to six state basketball titles, coached the Wildcats to state cross country championships in 1981, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1992 and 1995, winning five boys titles and a girls crown.

4. Bob Camien -- Camien was a longtime cross country and track coach at Seaman, leading the Vikings to state titles in both sports in a career that spanned more than three decades. Camien coached the Seaman girls to a state cross country championship in 1984.

5. Rick Brading -- Brading continues to add to his legacy as one of the state's top cross country coaches as Seaman's girls coach, including a state championship in 2005. Bradling led the Vikings to second-place finishes in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

6. Scott Shufelberger -- Shufelberger coached Washburn Rural from 1986-2015, including a girls state championship in 1996. A member of the Washburn Rural Hall of Fame, Shufelberger also led the Junior Blue boys to runner-up state finishes in 1997 and 2009.

7. Matt Swedlund -- After earning multiple state medals as a star for Washburn Rural under Shufelberger, Swedlund took over the Junior Blue program in 2016 and led Rural to its first boys state title in 2019. Swedlund has led Rural to six straight boys and girls state berths.

8. Fred Wiens -- Wiens served as Shawnee Heights' cross country coach from 1980 to 2004, coaching several outstanding T-Bird runners, including four-time state champ Trisa Nickoley. Wiens coached the Heights girls to six top-four team finishes, including a runner-up finish in 1987.

9. Bob Karr -- Karr coached Seaman's boys to a state cross country championship in 1979 before moving on to earn considerable success at Emporia.

10. Ken Darting -- Darting is best known for his coaching exploits in basketball, including five state championships at Silver Lake (one) and Highland Park (four), but Darting also coached Silver Lake's girls to a state crocc country championship in 1978

READERS CHOICE CROSS COUNTRY AWARDS

1. Joe Schrag -- No. 1 in TSN Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

2. Matt Swedlund -- No. 7 in TSN Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

3. Kathy Strecker -- No. 2 in TSN Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

4. Fred Wiens -- No. 8 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

5. Scott Shufelberger -- No. 6 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

6. Rick Brading -- No. 5 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

7. (tie) Ben Meseke --  No. 3 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

7. (tie) Luke Wiens -- Current Seaman boys cross country coach and son of former longtime Shawnee Heights coach Fred Wiens, No. 8 in Best of the Best Top 10.

9. Bob Camien -- No. 4 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

10. Bob Karr -- No. 9 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

Next up: Football Best of the Best Top 10 and Reader's Choice awards.