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Jansen cherishes meet named for father

By Staff | Sep 26, 2014

Submitted William J. Jansen Jr., the late father of Rugby High School cross country coach Bill Jansen, coached high school athletes for 43 years.

Bill Jansen will take his cross country teams to whatever meets will make his athletes stronger and more prepared for the postseason.

One of those meets – a challenging battle with Class A schools – just happens to bear his name. On Sept. 20, the Panthers raced in the 12th annual Valley City Bill Jansen Blue-White Invitational, named for his late father William J. Jansen.

“We’ll go to it until I’m gone,” Jansen said. “Of course, it means a lot to me. I see people I grew up with. There are still plenty of parents that I went to school with or he coached.”

The annual trip to the meet includes a stop at Jansen’s mother’s house in Valley City, where he graduated high school.

“We always stop at my mom’s house,” he said. “The kids get a chance to see my house. There are pictures up of the old high school days, so they get a chance to see all that stuff. That’s kind of neat.”

The history of Jansen coaching is rich. Bill’s father coached high school athletics for 43 years, beginning in Tuttle in 1960. A 10-year stint in that small town was followed by 33 years at Valley City. William J. Jansen was a seven-time recipient of the state’s Coach of the Year award as the head of boys and girls cross country and track and field programs. He was named National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year for girls track and field in 1979. His teams won eight state titles, with six runners-up; eight region titles and a district title (boys basketball in Tuttle); with 971 career wins.

He was “very driven to do well,” Bill Jansen said. “He was very into it. He was a big record keeper. He was a good coach, but he was a real big record keeper. He liked to keep track of results and he liked to get that kind of stuff to kids.”

Before his death at age 65 in 2003, William J. Jansen coached from the start of girls track and field in North Dakota, but planned on digging up history on boys track in the state. He died from leukemia.

“He never got the chance,” said Bill, also a meticulous record keeper.

William J. Jansen was born in Sanborn, where he graduated from high school. His father also was named William.

“My grandpa was a farmer,” Bill said. “He believed in athletics and he wanted my dad to be involved in that kind of stuff. My dad was a thrower basically, but he would talk about driving himself to meets at the time.”

Attending the cherished meet last week was special enough, but the Panther ran well and impressed their coach.

The boys finished third behind a pair of Class A schools and the girls took fourth overall with Class A West Fargo winning the meet.

“It’s nice to get into some of those bigger races and see where you need to be and where they need to get,” Jansen said.

RHS seniors Nolan Hovland and Tanner Bernhardt led the Panthers in the 5K (3.1 miles), finishing 12th and 15th, respectively. Hovland was three seconds ahead of Bernhardt at 18 minutes, 27 seconds.

“Nolan had a better race (this year),” Jansen said. “He felt a lot better about this race.”

Allison Foster led the Panther girls and finished ninth overall in the 4K (2.58 miles) in 16:40. Tristin Lunde was 11th and four seconds back of Foster.

“We ran faster than last year, almost to a person,” Jansen said.

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