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Softball: WF's Johnson named National Coach of the Year finalist

Pat Johnson, West Fargo softball coach, was recently selected as a Coach of the Year finalist by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.

"It's an honor," said Johnson, who also coaches the Packers girls hockey team. "It's nice that the state - we have the ability to be recognized for this. There are a lot of qualified coaches out there."

Last spring, Johnson coached the Packers softball team to a 22-5 record and its 12th straight North Dakota State Championship, beating Fargo North 7-6 in the title game. It was the first year softball was sanctioned as a high school sport by the state of North Dakota, meaning the season carried more weight than previous years.

"The girls approach (the season) the same way every year, but it probably meant a little bit more," Johnson said. "They put a lot into the season, they worked hard and it paid off for us in the end."

For his efforts, Johnson was named North Dakota state Coach of the Year and Eastern Dakota Conference Coach of the Year.

According to an NHSACA e-mail, Johnson was named a National Coach of the Year finalist based on his, "coaching longevity, win-loss record, championship years, awards received and services to the coaching profession and to (his) athletes."

Coach of the Year finalists will be honored at the National Awards Banquet at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Wednesday, June 23. The banquet is held to honor athletic directors and coaches in 20 sports from throughout the U.S.

All Coach of the Year and Athletic Director Finalists are recognized individually at the awards banquet with a narration of their career and the presentation of a plaque.

Of the finalists, 20 will be chosen as winners of the National Coach or Athletic Director of the Year in the respective sport.

So far, the West Fargo girls hockey team is 13-0-1 this season under Johnson's guidance.

Johnson said that just being named a Coach of the Year finalist is an honor.

"I don't expect to win it," he said, "but it's always nice to be recognized for something that you helped start."