Back on the job: Coach comes out of retirement to lead Texans

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, October 26, 2018
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Leading the Way

LEADING THE WAY – Northwest cross country coach Jerry Carter walks with his runners during the 5A Region I meet Monday at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. The Texans finished seventh and the Lady Texans took 12th. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

When Northwest’s cross country coach Josh Allen resigned in early July, Jerry Carter received a phone call he never expected.

The Texas High School Cross Country Hall of Fame coach had been retired since 2007, but Northwest was in desperate need of someone to run its program.

“They had a tough time getting someone released from contracts, so they asked me if I would come out of retirement and help them out,” Carter said. “I always enjoyed coaching. I know George [Lutkenhaus] and the AD at Northwest. They’re good people. I said if they needed help, I’d help them out.”

Home Stretch

HOME STRETCH – Northwest senior Carson Hughes (right) runs during the 5A Region I championships Monday at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. Hughes posted a 16:07, finishing 21st overall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

With only a few weeks before the start of the season, Carter agreed to take the job – returning to coaching after an 11-year hiatus.

“I thought my days of getting up at 4:30 in the morning were over,” Carter joked. “It’s been great fun. I didn’t know how much I missed it until I got with these kids.”

Carter got his first coaching job at Big Spring in 1975, helping turn around a program that scored zero points at the district track meet for two straight years. He then made stops at Houston Conroe and Euless Trinity before spending the final 13 years of his career at Grapevine.

Carter took the Mustangs to the state cross country meet several times, but was never able to bring home the gold. He was inducted into the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas Hall of Fame in 2013.

“I was the king of runner-up,” Carter said. “We were second four or five times at Grapevine when I was there. We got close, but I never could get it to all fit together.”

After spending over a decade at Grapevine with multiple trips to the podium at state, Carter inherited two Northwest teams that did not make it out of its district last season.

Carter said when practices started in August, he quickly realized he would have to alter some of his coaching techniques.

“About a week-and-a-half in I said, ‘I’ve got to do what they can do, not what I want them to do’,” Carter said. “I changed up what I do a little bit to try and fit what they could do. Since the second week in August, we’ve been going down this path we’re on now.”

The changes paid off.

Northwest had one of its best seasons in recent memory, as the boys won the District 8-5A title and the girls got second. Both teams advanced to the 5A Region I championships in Lubbock this past Monday.

The boys finished seventh with 190 points and the girls took 12th.

Senior Carson Hughes was 21st overall, clocking a 16:07. He was two spots away from qualifying for state individually.

“My only goal was that we would get better, and they have far exceeded that,” Carter said. “They’re much better than they were, and that’s all their fault. They did everything I asked them to do.

“They’ve done a great job.”

Northwest assistant athletic director George Lutkenhaus said the district will open the job back up for applications in the spring. Carter’s brief venture out of retirement may have lasted for only a few months, but Lutkenhaus knows he made a lasting impact on the Texans’ program.

“I wish we could keep him longer,” Lutkenhaus said. “He’s done a great job in such a short amount of time. We just appreciate everything he’s done for the program and for our kids. They all adjusted well to each other. He’s pretty sad to see it end. I could tell at the regional meet he’s still got a love for it and for those kids.”

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