With all that’s going on this year, it’s fitting that there was a tie in the voting for Osceola County’s M. Dean Cherry Memorial Coach of the Year.
Weylan Craig, boys soccer coach at St. Cloud High, and Kathrin Pennanen, softball coach at Liberty High School, both led their respective teams to improved records by creating playoff-caliber teams, while at the same time earning the respect of their peers and student athletes.
Over the past three years that Coach Pennanen has been Liberty High’s head softball coach, her team had a combined record of 26-15. The team started the 2020 season 6-0, and won all the game by double-digit runs before having the season abruptly ended due to the pandemic. Pennanen has coached a handful of other sports in her time at Liberty.
“Coach Pennanen excels in interacting with our students, athletes, faculty, and staff. For this reason, various student athletes come to her inquiring about the softball team and are looking forward to being a part of something special,” Liberty Chargers Athletic Director Corey Edwards said.
In the 2019-20 season, his 10th coaching the Bulldogs soccer squad, Coach Craig’s soccer team won the District 6A-9 championship, the school’s first district title since 2004, and won a regional playoff game over Viera, 3-0, for the Bulldogs’ first regional win in “nobody knows how long,” Craig said. The team’s 15-6-1 record was St. Cloud’s best in his tenure.
“It was awesome just getting nominated at school, because we have a lot of awesome coaches at St. Cloud,” Craig said, noting Bulldogs girls basketball coach Chad Ansbaugh won the award last year. “It’s quite an honor. It helped to have a great team with great leadership.”
St. Cloud Athletic Director Eric Godfrey said Craig won the honor “in a vote from his peers based upon his commitment and perseverance to the sport of soccer and for the accomplishments that his work has had this season.”
The county’s other M. Dean Cherry Memorial Coach of the Year Award nominees were Ed Kuzma, baseball and Girls soccer, Celebration; Travis Hill, wrestling, Gateway; Vic Lorenzano, wrestling, Harmony; Krystle Bayliss, swimming and water polo, Osceola; Randy Beeken, football, Poinciana; and Marc Deas, football, Tohopekaliga.
It is named after a long-time school-based and district-based administrator who began his career in education as a well respected coach and teacher. Each coach is nominated by their school.