Forest City High School and Waldorf College graduate Tom Trygstad, now the head boys track coach for Valley High School in the West Des Moines School District, led his athletes to their third consecutive state Class 4A team title.
Trygstad graduated from FCHS in 1991 and Waldorf College in 1993. He played basketball at Waldorf and majored in elementary education. After graduating from Waldorf College, he attended Wartburg College.
He then taught for 24 years, 17 of which were spent teaching fifth and sixth graders, but in the last five years he’s been teaching seventh-grade social studies.
Trygstad said he has been in the West Des Moines School District for 16 years.
“Why I moved up to junior high, I don’t know,” Trygstad said. “I’ve done fifth, sixth grade and I liked the idea of keep on moving up and being around the junior high, secondary age group more.”
For the last 16 years, Trygstad has been the boys and girls cross country coach at Valley High School, and this is his 10th year on the track program staff and his fifth year as the track head coach.
Trygstad said he has about 140 kids in the cross country program and about 140 kids in the boys track program.
“Kind of the lead programs I guess,” he said.
Because the program has about 140 kids, he has a lot of coaches on his staff for 19 different events including field, sprints and long distance events. Trygstad primarily works with the distance runners because he also coaches cross country, but his job as head coach of the track program also focuses on overseeing the entire program, he said.
“One of the things I try to work on is developing a culture the kids are proud of, that kids want to come out and work hard and find success and be a part of something bigger than themselves, and that’s sort of the goal,” Trygstad said.
Trygstad said they try to recruit kids who are excellent in other sports such as basketball, football and baseball, though one of the challenges is most kids want to specialize in only one or two sports.
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“We’re really proud of the fact we get what we feel is our best athletes in our hallways to come out for track and field, and 140 kids is a pretty big team,” he said. “…Our coaching staff [has been able to] build a culture of kids that want to go out and compete and be the best they can be, and we’ve been fortunate to have some really good athletes be successful the last couple of years.”
Even after winning the state title, the athletes want to continuously get better, Trygstad said.
“After you win one state title, kids get greedy, and they’re already thinking about what they can do next year,” he said.
This year, VHS had athletes in 17 of the 19 events at the state meet, and in 15 of those events they landed in the top eight places and getting points for the team.
“If you’re really good at the 4A level, you have to have a well-balanced team, so we’re really proud of the fact that our kids are scoring in almost every event that you can be in at state in track and field.”
Trygstad said they had a group of seniors who have been on the team for all three state championships.
“That was sort of a special thing to see this group graduate and see all that they have accomplished,” he said.
One of the seniors had scored 11 different medals at the state meet, and another student had 10 medals, according to Trygstad. Additionally, the team had scored the most points than any boys track and field team at the state meet.
“What’s amazing and we’re excited about is we still have a lot of kids that will be back next year,” he said. “So it’s just building on that success and striving to do, stay focused and do better each and every day and not worry about the pressure of trying to win again, just trying to become a better athlete, a better track and field runner each and every day in practice.”
The VHS track and field team seemed to creep up from behind and come out of nowhere the first two years they won the state championship, but this year, after having two straight championships under their belt, they seemed to have a target on their back, according to Trygstad.
“People knew we were probably the favorite to go in, so that’s different,” he said. “…Our motto this year was ‘Earn everything.’ You can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past; you have to go out each and every day and earn your, earn it in practice, earn it each meet and just focus on that day and not worry about the state meet.”