Mark Yoakum’s golden journey ending at Hall of Fame

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Mark Yoakum’s golden journey ending at Hall of Fame

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Mark Yoakum credits many mentors for his coaching success.

 Mark Yoakum’s extraordinary career journey started on the cinder track in front of Terry High.

Along the way, inspiration came from mentors came at Sidney, Dickinson State College, Garrison, N.D., Glasgow, Sidney, Neb., and Corvallis.

To name a few: In Sidney Little League, there was Jim Haugen (who later became head basketball coach at Sidney and director of the Montana High School Association, Ron Ewing (later the head football coach at Sidney) and Craig Price (later head basketball coach at Havre). At Terry, Dennis Shepherd (Terriers’ head basketball coach and an inductee in the Track Coach Hall of Fame in Colorado) and Cactus Warner, one of Terry’s greatest basketball coaches. He also coached football and track before he was hired by Class A Glasgow.

“How could I go wrong with mentors like that?” said Yoakum, a 1969 THS graduate.

On July 22, he will be returning to Nebraska (Lincoln), where he will be inducted into the National High School Athletics Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame, the Montana Coaches Association announced Dec. 30.   

Over his 45-year career, as a head coach or an assistant, his teams have collected 60 state trophies, 28 of those state championships. Twenty came at Corvallis.

“I have loved my life. I have been able to do what I love and share that with my children,” he said in an email. An understanding wife, the former Joy Schroeber, made his life easier.

During his 26 years at Glasgow, Yoakum’s girls cross-country teams won eight consecutive state titles, the last five as head coach.  

Glasgow also won a pair of track and field state championships, one boys and one girls.

After six years in Sidney, Neb., he closed out his career at Corvallis, where he has coached the Blue Devils to 36 state trophies, including six girls track and field state titles, five boys track championships, and nine cross country titles -- five in the girls program and four in the boys. A model of consistency, the Corvallis program had 16 top-three team finishes.

He is a three-time Montana Coaches Association coach of the year recipient and an 11-time nominee. In 2016, he was named national assistant of the year and has also been nominated for the regional coach of the year. He has previously been inducted to the Glasgow High School Hall of Fame and Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

PURPLE REIGN

REMEMBRANCES

My October interview with Tony Smith, head football coach during the Terriers’ three-peat (1985-1986-1987), got a bit long-winded so I saved some nuggets for another day.

  “In one of our playoff games,” said Smith, “the wind was blowing. Kevin Morast dove for a pass in the right corner of the end zone. He rolls once and there’s a dollar bill in his face. He grabs it. He scored the touchdown and didn’t know what to do with the dollar bill.  

“One of the game officials was standing right there and Kevin handed it over to him. “When the ref realized it looked like a bribe, he didn’t want anything to do with it.”

Smith recalled a photo in the Billings Gazette that showed him being carried off the field after beating Absarokee for the second title.  

It was an intoxicating triumph. Pun intended.

 A Terry fan handed him a can of Coca Cola.

 “I was thirsty. I took a sip and it was about 80 percent whiskey. I threw it away as fast as I could.” (He didn’t identify the culprit who spiked the Coke). It might have been a long list.

 “Another thing that really helped us was the administration letting us take over that tiny gym in the Grandey Building. We turned that basketball floor into our weight room and that was a big thing for our program.”  

Smith raved about Terry’s supercharged fan base during the Purple Reign days.

 “Some people parked their cars around the field the day before,” to get a prime spot, he said.

He broke into a hearty laugh when asked if he had any other special memories. “Remember Joe Johnson? He was one of our most passionate supporters.  

“The first thing he’d do on a road game was hit the bars and let it be known that Terry was going to kick some (backsides.)He got ‘em riled up. Bets started flying. I am not kidding, I heard he was pocketing $1,000 a game!”

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