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Geerdes selected as Sentinel Relays’ honorary referee

TEACHING MOMENT — Fairmont assistant track & field coach Scott Geerdes (left) demonstrates the proper technique for a handoff to Cardinal student-athlete Sophie Johnson at Bob Bonk Track in Fairmont recently. Geerdes will serve as the 64th annual Sentinel Relays’ track & field honorary referee on Friday in Fairmont. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — “Are we ready? Streeeeetch. That’s one. Reach … just a little more. That’s two. … Good, good. Three. … Four. … Five. … “

The above crystal-clear voice has resonated from the friendly confines of Bob Bonk Track — formerly Cardinal Track — in Fairmont during Cardinal track & field practice sessions for nearly two decades.

” … 29 … and that’s 30. Good job!”

The silver-haired assistant coach peers through his sunglasses at the next item on his clipboard.

“I need my 4×100 girls down here to work on handoffs, please.”

The prominent yet cordial vocals prompt a quick response from his finely-tuned student-athletes, and the Fairmont mentor takes a baton and literally does a walk-through demonstration before handing off the next exercise to the leadoff relay runner.

The distinguished voice belongs to the Cardinals assistant coach Scott Geerdes, which is a bit ironic after getting to know him away from the tarred surface.

“It is a contrast from who I am in my personal life. I’m somewhat quiet and introverted,” Geerdes said with a smile.

So, how did one of Fairmont High School’s guidance counselors, who’s normally quite reserved, literally become the booming voice of Cardinal track & field practices?

“When I first started coaching for (head coach) Bob (Bonk) in the spring of 2000, I became the official stretching and preparation coordinator,” said Geerdes, who specifically works with sprinters — competitors in the open 100 meters, 200 and 400, in addition to members of the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relay teams. “I know the importance of kids being properly stretched out before getting to taxing workouts, and with our large numbers (of participants), I had to assert myself by using a louder voice to keep the drills organized and efficient.

“Through the years, ‘the voice’ has taken on a life of its own.”

Ironically, Geerdes, who’s become a friendly familiar face throughout the Big South Conference and Section 2A track & field coaching ranks, did not compete in the spring sport during his highly successful prep playing days at South O’Brien High School in Primghar, Iowa.

“After graduating high school in 1991, I went on to compete in both baseball and basketball at Mount Marty (College) in Yankton, South Dakota,” said Geerdes, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in social science education, with an emphasis in coaching.

While working on his masters degree in counseling at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, the multi-tasking Geerdes accepted a job as the K-12 school counselor in the Waubay (S.D.) school district. The 1997 USD graduate also taught American history in Waubay, served as the head girls basketball coach in the fall and then made the transition to assistant coach for boys basketball during the winter season.

With two advanced degrees in hand, Geerdes received a call in the spring of 1998 asking him if he’d be interested in a high school counseling job in southern Minnesota.

“Back in those days, I actually pulled out an atlas to find Fairmont,” said Geerdes. “I noticed the town was located along Interstate 90, and more importantly, I could see Primghar on the edges of the map, so I knew if I moved there, I’d be within a reasonable traveling distance from my home town.”

Geerdes made the trek to Fairmont and connected with a couple of co-workers who would change his life in a positive manner over the next two decades.

“The first three people I met in town were Bob Bonk; Curt Busch, who was the high school principal at the time; and Dave Paschke, who was an assistant coach for the track & field team,” said Geerdes. “Even though I had never coached track & field, I always liked working with numbers and clerked the home meets my first couple of years in Fairmont.

“Then, in the spring of 2000, Bob asked me to help coach.”

And as the old saying goes, the rest is history and quite a successful one for Geerdes, who’s been an integral cog in the Cardinals’ perennial appearances at both the Minnesota High School League and True Team state meets.

“I give all the credit to my fellow coaches and the culture created by Bob Bonk. If he lets you stick around long enough, good things happen,” said Geerdes.

One of those good things happening to Geerdes on Friday will be serving as the 64th annual Sentinel Relays’ track & field invitational’s honorary referee in Fairmont.

“I truly was caught off-guard being selected for such an honor. I was nearly speechless,” Geerdes reflected.

But that will not be the case when Geerdes and the rest of the Cardinals’ coaching staff venture to Bonk Track for the Relays’ first running event at 4 p.m. Friday.

“I really enjoy the pre-meet time with (assistant coach) Stew (Murfield) in getting the hurdles set up and making sure the starting blocks are in the lanes,” said Geerdes. “It’s also nice to greet all the timers with clipboards and stop watches in hand before helping our relay teams practice handoffs.”

Beside liking the prep work behind the scenes at the Sentinel Relays, does Geerdes have a favorite memory of the outstate’s largest regular-season track & field competition?

“At the Sentinel Relays, the 4×1 (relay) is run directly before the 4×4. Traditionally, they are not run back-to-back at other meets, so watching those two relays under the lights is something special for me,” said Geerdes. “From an individual perspective, there have been numerous outstanding athletes during my time at Fairmont, but having the chance to coach and see Neil Hanson and Kate Bancks compete was incredible.

“We’ve been blessed to have athletic kids who are very coachable, like to compete and take pride in being above-average students in the classroom.”

Opposite of today’s touch-of-an-app society, Fairmont High School and its track & field programs are truly fortunate that something as “old school” as a printed map in an atlas two decades ago played a pivotal role in Geerdes becoming a valued part of the Cardinals’ family.

So, if you happen to drive by Bonk Track after school during a week day from now until the Minnesota State High School League state track & field meet in June, you’ll likely hear Geerdes’ distinct voice counting to 30 during the early stages of practice.

“I’ve asked the athletes if they want me to stop using ‘the voice,’ and they told me that it’s become a traditional part of the program,” said Geerdes. “It (the voice) happened by accident out of necessity, and it continues by request.”

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