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Tom Plocker to receive state honor

By Staff | Jul 26, 2020

Tom Plocker has been Blue Earth Area’s cross country coach for 32 years. He is being honored by being inducted into the Minnesota Cross Country Hall of Fame this August. In addition to coaching cross country, Plocker has also been the track coach at BEA for 33 years and the math league advisor for 20 years.

Tom Plocker has been the Section 2A cross country Coach of the Year numerous times, the Minnesota State cross country Coach of the Year in 2009 and now the Blue Earth Area mentor is being inducted into the Minnesota Cross Country Hall of Fame.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place on Aug. 10 and because of COVID-19 it will he held virtually.

Gary Hildebrandt, who coaches cross country for Mountain Lake, nominated Plocker for the honor.

“I called the hall of fame coordinator and he agreed Tom’s stats qualified him,” Hildebrandt says. “But then he added, ‘More importantly, Tom is a hall of fame person.'”

Hildebrandt is a native of Mountain Lake and recalls watching Tom run in high school.

“I knew him as a sprinter in high school when he ran the 400 and the 800,” Hildebrandt recalls. “I just enjoyed watching him run.”

The two became friends while attending Bethel College in St. Paul.

“Tom is one of the hardest workers in and out of the classroom I have been around,” Hildebrandt shares. “Great athletes or average, he is always positive towards them. Watching the way he interacts with his runners before, during and after meets has taught me so much. Every athlete gets attention, every meet.”

Courtney Grandgenett, a 2012 BEA graduate echoed Hildebrandt’s comments.

“Coach Plocker cared about you no matter who you were and no matter what your time was, whether you were the slowest runner or the fastest runner,” Grandgenett remarks. “He would have a plan for each runner to help them improve. He believed in each athlete and would help each runner to be the best they could be.”

Grandgenett, who is now a kindergarten teacher in Greeley, Colorado, offered more thoughts on her former coach.

“I always thought he is the kind of coach I would strive to be if I coached,” Grandgenett continues. “And then I coached for a couple of years and came to realize just how much work coach Plocker put into being a coach, something I did not realize when I was an athlete on the cross country team.

“I am very happy for him. He is so positive and he did not pressure the runners. He is very detailed oriented and has a ‘team’ approach. He is a fabulous coach and very deserving of this award.”

Hildebrandt, Plocker and Russ Fleming were roommates at Bethel. And now all three are members of the Cross Country Hall of Fame.

“Russ entered in 2015 and Tom and I are being inducted this year,” Hildebrandt comments. “I was a football player in college but now all three of us have been honored as cross country coaches.

Hildebrandt says he does not see his college buddy much during the races.

“We are not at the finish line. We are usually away from the finish encouraging the last runner,” he explains. “Tom is rarely seen without a camera at the meets. I have never been able to accomplish that part of coaching and I know his athletes enjoy the pictures.”

It is not just in coaching Plocker makes his mark.

“Tom volunteers his humble expertise to better our sport as seen by his involvement on the advisory committee and as the Section meet host,” Hildebrandt remarks. “I have contacted him numerous times seeking advice about this and that. He has been the BEA cross country coach for 32 years, the track and field coach for 33 years and the math league advisor for 20 years. On top of that, he even drives the bus for the team.”

And how does the long-time BEA coach and new hall of fame member feel about his latest award?

“This is certainly a nice honor,” Plocker shares. “I feel very blessed to be able to coach the sport of cross country and be involved with all the kids who have been a part of the program.”