Don Larson Selected to USTFCCCA National Coaches Hall of Fame

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:36 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Legendary North Dakota State men’s track & field and cross country coach Don Larson has been selected for induction into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced Tuesday, Aug. 10.

Larson will be honored as part of the seven-coach class at the 2021 USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at the USTFCCCA Convention in Orlando, Fla.

Started in 1995, the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame exists to recognize coaches who have brought great distinction to themselves, to their institutions and to the sports of cross country and track & field. Each of the honorees exemplifies the qualities of dedication to the sport, leadership and passion for their profession and serves as an inspiration to coaches everywhere.

Don Larson – USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2021

After graduating from South Dakota State University in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and then earning a master’s degree in the same area of expertise from Minnesota State-Moorhead, Larson began his coaching career at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

In 1979, Larson crossed the Red River to become the head men’s track & field and cross country coach at North Dakota State. And it was in Fargo where Larson spent the next 41 years molding the Bison into a perennial force until his well-deserved retirement following the 2019-20 academic year.

NDSU’s success didn’t just span decades under Larson. It transcended divisions.

For the first 25 years of Larson’s tenure, the Bison left their mark as NCAA Division II members in the North Central Conference. NDSU won 36 conference titles as a team between 1979 and 2004, including 35 in track & field alone. That one cross country title came in 1982 and it was the first link in a chain that resulted in capturing the vaunted Triple Crown.

Triumphs at the national level were just as commonplace for the Bison. Curt Bacon gave Larson his first individual champ in 1980 when he won the steeplechase crown and before all was said and done, his athletes added 10 more to that total at the NCAA DII level. Larson’s athletes also dotted the podium during those years, too, compiling 206 All-America honors with 193 of those coming in track & field alone. NDSU’s best finishes as a team were third outdoors in 2004 and fourth indoors in 1989.

Success continued after the Bison made the full transition to the Summit League in NCAA Division I.

NDSU won 18 more conference titles between 2007 and 2020, including the 2020 indoor crown to send Larson out as a winner. The Bison dominated the proceedings, too, sweeping the top four spots in the 800, the top six spots in the shot put, and the top three spots in the weight throw as Larson was named the conference’s Coach of the Year for the 18th time.

Payton Otterdahl gave NDSU its first individual champion at the NCAA DI level in any sport in 2019 when he won the shot put at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Otterdahl also set the collegiate indoor record in the event earlier that year. He wasn’t done, though, as he’d double back to win the weight throw the very next day. Otterdahl was just the second man in NCAA DI history to accomplish that feat in meet history.

In 41 years as the head coach at NDSU, Larson directed his track & field and cross country teams to 59 team championships. He earned 60 Coach of the Year honors at the conference, regional and national levels, including sweeping the Division II indoor and outdoor National Coach of the Year awards in 2004.

It’s safe to say Larson made coaching the Bison a family affair. His wife, Desire’e, was an assistant coach for 20 years in charge of the program’s high jumpers and coached those athletes to 12 All-America efforts. Don and Desire’e have two children, Kelsey and Kira.

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