Urdahl resigns as NLS coach
NEW LONDON - Dean Urdahl started the girls cross-country program at New London-Spicer in 1980, one year after taking over the boys program.
Twenty years later, in 2000, the Wildcat girls reached the pinnacle of Class A by winning the state championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
They weren't done. NLS did it again in 2001 and then won an unprecedented third straight in 2002. Though Duluth East had won seven straight Class AA championships (1992-98), no small-school team had won more than two straight until the NLS trifecta.
"I've been blessed by good assistants and good kids," said Dean in announcing his retirement from coaching on Tuesday. "I've always felt that if we could get athletes who wanted to work hard and who believed that winning is possible, we could win."
Urdahl, a seventh-grade history teacher who is in second term serving as a state representative for District 18B, had considered retiring after last season but decided to return for a final season this year. He's coached 27 seasons total.
The girls' team was second in 1997 to Lake City. The Wildcat girls also took a third-place trophy, two fourths and a fifth in the 16-team state meets. His girls teams made 11 state trips in all.
The boys teams were not without their successes. There were seven state trips between 1985 and 1995 with a high of fourth place in 1989.
The NLS team never had an individual state champion or a runner-up; rather they were marked by balance. For example, in 2002, the last of the three state titles, NLS finished with 109 points to 118 points for runner-up Staples-Motley, both Section 6A teams. Counting team points, Kirby Erickson was 4th, Kayla Karnes 15th, Renae Noyes 23rd, Tricia Soupir 33rd and Sarah Vauk 34th. Non-counting Cassidy Vogt was 45th and Tia Nowacki 72nd.
The Wildcats' highest individual finish was Alyssa Mourning taking third in the mid-1990s.
Urdahl, who makes his home near Grove City, stated the program has always attracted top kids.
"My teams have overwhelmingly had good students who were good citizens and wanted to succeed," he said.
NLS teams won 108 meets under Urdahl, including 44 conference, sub-section, section or state championships. Urdahl cited the time commitment required of coaching and being a legislatuor as his main reason for retiring from coaching. He is in his 35th year of teaching.