FARMINGTON — Kevin Werth's Piedra Vista softball team has been honored by San Juan County and Governor Susana Martinez following the past two seasons, but Werth was recognized on a national scale this week.
Werth, head coach of the eight-time defending state champion Lady Panthers, was named the 2013 National Softball Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“It's very humbling to say the least,” he said. “It caught me by surprise with the other seven candidates. I didn't really expect it. I'm glad I got to share it with my wife and daughter.”
The Piedra Vista head coach was one of eight finalists in consideration for the honor along with coaches from Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia.
The award is based not only on team record and state championships, but years of service in the game.
“That's why I was surprised, because there are a couple of guys who have been at this for 35 years,” Werth said. “They looked at service, and I've been fortunate to serve on the coaches' assocation and run the North/South All-Star game the last three years.”
Werth credited his family and the entire Piedra Vista softball program, and said the award wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices of everyone associated with the eam.
“I look at the award as more of a community award,” Werth said. “... My wife and my assistants and their spouses and the awesome parents who support our program and, of course, the kids. Without the kids I've been blessed to coach, I wouldn't be in this position. It's always gratifing to see them have success.”
Werth's players couldn't imagine anyone more deserving of the award after everything he has given to the Piedra Vista program.
“It's huge for him. He has put in tireless hours to work with his teams every year, along with his family sacrificing time for him to be with us,” said 2013 PV graduate and former pitcher Krissy Fortner. “He continues to remain humble and each year comes back hungry to do even better. We're all so proud and honored to have played for him.”
Werth has guided the Lady Panthers to eight consecutive 4A state softball titles from 2006 to 2013 and surpassed the 300 career win mark with a victory against La Cueva in April.
In 15 seasons as a head softball coach, he has amassed 313 career wins — 86 in six seasons at Shiprock and 227 in nine seasons at Piedra
A family atmosphere surrounds the teams Werth coaches and that has been a critical part of the success he's enjoyed.
“I have my own daughter, but I've also been blessed with hundreds of daughters. They become family. I'm glad their parents share them with us,” Werth said of his players. “Even going back to Shiprock, I've had a bunch of kids buy in to what we do and their results are reflected in what we do.”
Many of his past and present players see Werth as a second father.
“He treats us like his family, and when he does discipline us, it's only out of love and to make us better,” Fortner said.
Above all else for Werth, more important than the state title rings or the trophies and banners, is making sure his staff has helped to prepare the girls for life after high school softball.
“The state championships are nice, but it's a great feeling to see these kids succeed after they leave here,” Werth said. “I keep in contact with a lot of them, and they are all doing great with their families.”
Many of the 2013 PV softball players were waiting for Werth at the airport when he arrived back home in Farmington from the ceremony on Thursday night.
“It just says a lot about our program and our kids,” Werth said of the support. “I was also getting texts and phone calls from past players all day, too.”Joshua Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.