The Piedra Vista track and cross country teams are learning from the best.

Mark Turner (boys track and field) and Sampson Sage (girls cross country) received the 2012 coach of the year award from the New Mexico Track and Cross Country Coaches Association in their sports in January.

Turner credited the work of his assistants and everyone involved with the Panthers track and field program the team's success.

"It's an award for the whole crew," he said. "I am blessed to have the coaching staff that I have. I get to work with some of the best in the state as far as I'm concerned."

The Panthers finished in third place at state in 2012, and Turner has seen the program grow steadily during his 15 years as head coach.

"When we first started, there were 15 kids. Now, I have over 100," he said. "We have pretty good athletes. We've put it together — this coaching staff and I have put it all together. There were no expectations. It's grown a little at a time, and the kids have bought into the program."

Turner hopes to continue the Panthers progress toward their first state title this spring.

"Our goal every year is to finish top five at state," he said. "I honestly feel we should be bringing home a trophy for both boys and girls this year. It will be blue, red or green. I think we have the kids, and I know we have the coaching staff. If we stay healthy, there's no reason we shouldn't be bringing more hardware home from the state meet."

Winning the award was quite a surprise for Sage after the Lady Panthers cross country team placed fourth at state.

"It came out of left field," he said. "I got the email from the NMTCCCA in January and I just stared at it for like 30 minutes. It didn't seem real."

The fourth place finish was PV's highest in school history and came just one year after finishing 14th place.

Sage believes the drastic improvement played a large role in him receiving the award.

"In 4A cross country, you kind of are who you are," he said. "You see the same schools finishing in the same spots year in and year out. So to see a jump like that doesn't happen often."

With many of the same kids running cross country and the long distance races during the track season, Sage thinks both sports see the benefits of having hard working coaching staffs.

"There are high expectations on both ends," Sage said. "When they come out for cross country, the kids are expected to work consistently and work hard, and that same work ethic is expected when they step out on the track as well."