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Cross Country: Cards' Popp inducted into Hall of Fame

Jerry Popp

Around these parts of Minnesota, Willmar High School cross country coach Jerry Popp's credentials were never in question.

Now, he will officially go down as one of the greatest coaches in the state's history.

After 13 seasons and two state titles, Popp was inducted into the Minnesota Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame on Monday.

Popp has led 13 Cardinals cross country teams qualify for the Minnesota State Cross Country Meet, with six of those teams placing on the podium.

In 2005 and 2006, Popp's boys cross country teams brought home consecutive state titles —the only two in school history. The Cardinals boys placed second in 2004, while the girls finished as high as third place in 2014.

At the sectional level, the Willmar boys have finished in the top five or better in every season since Popp arrived, while that streak is at six years for the girls.

Before coming to Willmar, Popp dominated the cross country scene in North Dakota, where he coached at Bowman High School. In 29 years, Popp's teams won a combined 40 Class B state titles. 25 of those were won by the girls, with the boys also claiming 15 championships.

Just as impressive as his teams' successes on the course is the vast number of runners Popp recruits to the sport each season. With a medium-sized enrollment, Willmar regularly carries some of the state's largest teams in terms of numbers of runners. This past season, 55 boys and 43 girls were listed on the team roster.

Popp, who also serves as the coach of the Cardinals track and field team in the spring season, will join local cross country coaches New London-Spicer's Dean Urdahl and Montevideo's Gerry Wohlhuter in the Hall of Fame.

Curt Hogg

Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016.