By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
After knocking on the door of a state championship for 13 years, most coaches might have given up hope.
Not Lori Navarro.
And the 14th season was the charm despite a 2-5 start.
Navarro’s efforts were not only recognized in the State of Kansas but by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America as well.
Navarro was named the Region 7 Coach of the Year earlier this week. She, along with seven other finalists from the eight regions, will now be considered for National Coach of the Year.
Navarro’s accomplishments have earned her the national recognition.
She was the first soccer coach at Liberal High School when the program was established 14 years ago.
In that time she has won 11 consecutive Western Athletic Conference titles, a fourth place state finish, three third place finishes, three runner-up finishes and a state championship.
She has been recognized as the Kansas Coach of the Year, but this is the first regional honor for Navarro.
The more impressive accomplishment may be that Navarro is a woman coaching a boys team — a rare occurrence with exceptional results.
But Navarro has never talked about that. She simply sets one goal each year — win the state championship.
“It’s amazing,” Navarro said. “God has blessed me with so much already. This is like a big bonus for me. It is an honor to be nominated and one of the eight to be eligible for national coach of the year. It’s all for my players and coaches. They put me in this position. I am enjoying every bit of it.”
Since winning the state championship, several community receptions have taken place to honor the team. It was a response that was not expected by Navarro.
“You never think about,” she said. “You think about winning the state championship for your team, and how it will affect your team, and how happy they will be. You forget how important it is to everyone else around you. The fact it became a reality and the way the community and the school has supported us, and the pride they have shown for what we’ve done was amazing. I never expected it. It was awesome that we have pulled together as a community and something good has happened for us, and the soccer team is responsible for bringing that back. Everyone is embracing it and enjoying it. The state championship is not a trophy, it is the community support and knowing we won it for them.”
LHS Athletic Director Scott Hinkle has been able to watch Navarro’s accomplishments over the years, and despite the sluggish start to the championship season, Hinkle expected that Navarro would get the best out of her team.
“She pours her heart and soul into it,” Hinkle said. “Each year it is like a family. I am glad to see that her hard work is paying off not just for her team but for her personally. It’s a great for her and the school and community. She worked hard for it.”
Hinkle said the title has meant more than just a positive for the soccer team.
“This has created an atmosphere at the school we haven’t had,” he said. “It’s something that has brought the community and the school together.”
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