Otsego cross country coach Steve Long talks to his team before a race last season. Long led the Bulldogs to their second straight Division 2 state championship. (Photo by Gary Shook)

Otsego’s Long receives statewide recognition

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

Although nearly two decades have passed since then, memories of his first regional meet as Otsego girls’ cross country coach remain vivid in Steve Long’s mind.
“I had five girls total on the team,” he said. “One chose to go to another event—band, I think—two were hurt and another went out of town with her family. So we ran that regional with only one girl on the line.”
My how things have changed.
Otsego has established itself as a perennial state power, having celebrated its second consecutive Division 2 state championship last November.
Due to that level of success, The U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association named Long its Girls’ High School Coach of the Year for Michigan for the 2016 season.
“This honor is based upon the performance of the Otsego High School team throughout the 2016 season and is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the student athletes, the coach staff and the administration of the school,” USTFCCCA CEO Sam Seemes said in a press release.
Upon hearing of the honor, Long couldn’t help but reflect back on that first team of his in Otsego.
“While all coaching awards are humbling, I have to admit this one is special for me,” Long said. “I’m human and of course it feels good to be recognized for my time and energy.
“I’ll be honest, when I read that email, I leaned back in my chair and remembered that very first regional meet with the girls. And I thought about the amazing, amazing journey it’s been since that first year. So many great kids have contributed to this program.”
Those kids are among the group with whom Long said he shares this and every coaching award he receives.
“Realistically, this is an award for the Otsego cross country program and the community,” he said. “God put me here in Otsego 18 years ago and I’ve been blessed more than I could have ever imagined throughout my time here. The community supports us. The administration supports us. The kids believe in what they’re doing. It’s a beautiful thing.”
It’s a beautiful thing that was born out of faith.
The faith Long has in his athletes and the faith they place in him and the process.
“Our success is a direct result of how we approach each day and each practice,” Long said. “Without a doubt, the young men and women in this program dream big, work hard and trust the process. But I truly believe that what makes this program different than other programs is the faith with which we start each day.
“We believe that there is a purpose for what we’re doing, that we’re doing things the right way and that if we have faith, we have no limits. It’s an amazing thing for me to get to be a part of. I absolutely cherish it.”
Long cherishes it so much, in fact, that he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else.
“For me, coaching is the best job in the world,” he said. “I get the opportunity to share my passion, help kids find theirs and walk this incredible journey with some pretty amazing kids and their families.”
 

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