Ashland's Voskes earns national coaching honor
Only two years removed from winning a fight for his life, Ashland cross country coach Hans Voskes has secured one of the biggest honors in his enduring career.
The 68-year-old Voskes was named Oregon’s boys cross country coach of the year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association back in January but only recently learned of his first national honor after communication breakdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a nice handshake that I got,” Voskes said in trying to downplay the award, which also put him in the running for national coach of the year.
One boys coach and one girls coach from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia were honored for their successes during the fall of 2019, as selected by a committee of experts from around the nation.
Summit’s Carol McLatchie was named Oregon’s girls cross country coach of the year.
“It’s just a great honor to receive that and I really appreciate it,” said Voskes, who began his coaching career at Phoenix High in 1978. “It’s due to the fact that our program, boys and girls and varsity and JV, was so outstanding this year. This is kind of a sign of that and I appreciate it big-time.”
In 2018, Voskes overcame a bout with sepsis that resulted in some initial organ failure and emergency surgery on an aneurysm of the descending aorta. He was hospitalized for 72 days between stints here in Medford at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, where he underwent a 22-hour surgery.
Only two days after his release, mind you, he was back on the Ashland High track passing on words of encouragement to his runners.
“Hans is super supportive of everyone on the team and always wants to see everyone develop,” said Ashland senior EJ Holland. “From trying to get guys moving up from the middle pack of the JV to transition into successful varsity runners, he’s always really supportive and always there for all the guys.”
Among the factors taken into consideration for the award were team score and placement at the state championships, margin of victory, performance against rankings if available, individual championships and how their team’s performance stacked up to previous years (e.g. first title in school history, consecutive titles, etc.).
This past fall, Ashland’s boys team scored a runaway Class 5A victory to secure its first state team title since 1993 after runner-up showings in 2017 and 2009.
With Holland shattering the state record with his winning time of 14 minutes, 30.4 seconds, and four Ashland runners among the top five finishers, the Grizzlies scored 41 points to breeze by three-time champion Crater (81 points).
Holland’s time, which brought him his second straight cross country crown and, including track, his sixth state title overall, broke the standard of 14:33.8 set by Jeff Hess of South Eugene in 1978.
Arlo Davis finished third in 15:12.4, Reed Pryor was fourth in 15:18.8 and Cameron Stein placed fifth in 15:27.2 for Ashland. Vincent Senn rounded out the scorers by finishing 30th (28th in scoring order) in 16:39.9.
Holland said he was excited to hear that Voskes had been recognized with the national honor, noting that the 10th-year Ashland coach has played a big part in the evolution of all the Grizzlies.
“In my freshman and sophomore year,” said the University of Oregon-bound standout, “Hans was so important in kind of getting me transitioned to high school and helping me learn and mature as both a runner and a person through the beginning of high school.”
“He was able to get me really enthusiastic about performing at a high level in both high school and beyond,” added Holland, whose father Neil serves as his personal coach. “He’s just been great at kind of guiding me and my teammates through some rough waters through our beginning years of high school.”
Voskes spent 10 years at Phoenix before taking over at Southern Oregon University from 1989-98. He returned to Phoenix from 2000-2009 and then moved to Ashland High for the 2009-10 school year. His son Piet, whom he has also assisted, is the head coach at North Medford High.
Voskes said he was equally proud of his Ashland girls cross country team, which placed seventh at the 5A state meet, and a boys junior varsity team that twice posted perfect scores (all of its runners in the top five) in meets this past fall.
But that 2019 varsity boys team, well, that special group is one he won’t soon forget.
“The icing on the cake to all of this was Reed and Arlo and Cameron and definitely EJ,” said Voskes. “Those guys are pretty special.”