Gruenhagen honored by Brooks running company

Courtesy photo: Chris Gruenhagen

BROOKINGS – The Brooks running company recently announced that Brookings High School cross country coach Chris Gruenhagen was named as one of the company’s Inspiring Coaches of the Year.

“At Brooks, we recognize that high school coaches do more than shape our runs - they shape our lives,” the press release from Brooks read. “Your community is a better and stronger place because of your commitment.”

The nomination process includes a community member - either a current or former athlete, parent, or fellow coach - making a case for recognition of a coach.

Gruenhagen says he is honored to have been nominated for and received the recognition and that past athletes he coached remember their time in the Bobcat cross country program as a positive experience.

“I think it’s pretty special to find out that a student athlete I was fortunate to coach many years ago continues to view the experiences they had on our teams as impactful on their life long term,” Gruenhagen said.

The coach says his coaching philosophy is one built on relationships with the athletes.

“Building relationships with our student athletes is a primary part of our program as a whole,” Gruenhagen said. “Being able to connect with each runner assists in finding what drives them and aids in the ability to push them to find the most out of themselves.”

After graduating from Mankato West High School in Mankato, Minn., Gruenhagen came to Brookings to attend South Dakota State University as a Physical Education, Teacher Education major, and competed on the Jackrabbit cross country team.

Throughout middle and high school Gruenhagen had numerous coaches leave a positive mark on his life that led him into coaching.

“I was very fortunate to have an incredible group of coaches throughout my running career,” Gruenhagen said. “Scott Carlson, Matt Kolb and Jim Bassett really set the tone for me in middle school and high school.  All three of them knew how to build relationships, hold expectations, and get the best out of every athlete that they worked with.  These gentlemen really created the foundation for the hard work and dedication to running that has become such a huge part of my life.  Without their mentorship I would have never ended up running at South Dakota State University and certainly not become a coach.”

The coaching staff at SDSU furthered his enjoyment of running.

“Coaches Paul Danger and Rod DeHaven at SDSU truly fostered my love for running,” Gruenhagen added. “Their ability to connect running with life made a huge impact in my decision to pursue teaching and coaching.  From the relationships to the workouts, the primary foundation of the way that I coach was built by the opportunities I was fortunate to have under these coaches and the lessons they taught me along the way.”

Upon graduation from SDSU he began teaching in the Brookings School District, and in 2012 earned his masters degree from SDSU in Educational Administration.

After starting his teaching career in Brookings at Medary Elementary, Gruenhagen became interim assistant principal at Brookings High School in 2015.

He returned to Medary in 2020 as interim principal, and in 2021 the interim tag was dropped and he became the school’s principal.

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