BYFIELD — Joe Colbert's Triton girls cross country team had a season to remember this past fall. The Vikings ran the table in the Cape Ann League to finish as undefeated regular season and CAL Open champions, won the program's first-ever Division 5 championship and then finished third at the Division 2 All-State meet.
Now Colbert is earning statewide recognition after leading the Vikings to their best season in program history.
Colbert has been honored as MIAA Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year, one of the MIAA's most prestigious awards recognizing the coaches who have made the biggest impact on their student-athletes and enjoyed an exceptional degree of success in competition.
"It's a huge honor," said Colbert. "It's kind of humbling, there are a ton of good coaches out there."
Colbert and Triton school officials were notified by the MIAA on Wednesday morning, and Colbert will be honored at the MIAA Awards Banquet, which is typically held in the spring but has been postponed to this coming fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new date of the awards banquet has not been set and will be announced later this summer once there is more clarity regarding coronavirus-related restrictions on group functions come the fall.
"Your selection was based upon excellence of character, impact upon students and community and coaching credentials," wrote MIAA assistant director Ann Trytko. "Please accept our sincere appreciation for the impact that you have had on students by helping them develop skills and values necessary for success in their lives."
Originally hired as Triton's boys outdoor track coach in 2000, Colbert has steadily taken on more responsibilities over his 20 years at the school and now coaches all three seasons of cross country and track and field for both the boys and girls. His teams have largely been successful, and over the past two years the Vikings have enjoyed some of their best seasons in program history.
Last spring, Colbert's boys outdoor track and field team won its first Division 4 championship in program history, and Colbert was subsequently named Boston Globe Division 4 Coach of the Year. This year's team was a favorite to repeat before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus, and the girls outdoor track team was expected to rank among Division 4's top contenders as well. The boys cross country team also placed third at last fall's Division 5 meet.
The girls cross country program's success has been particularly noteworthy given that the team has dominated with only about a dozen runners at its disposal. The Vikings haven't lost a dual meet since 2017, and in the fall of 2018 the team announced its arrival by ending Hamilton-Wenham's 148-meet winning streak, a 14-year run that stretched all the way back to 2004.
With top runners Ellie Gay-Killeen and Sarah Harrington set to return, along with several other key contributors, Triton should remain a contender this coming fall.
In addition to his recent Boston Globe honor, Colbert has also been honored as the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association's Coach of the Year in the past, but has never received a major MIAA recognition like this. He credited his athletes, assistant coaches, parents and everyone else associated with the program for helping make this award a reality.
"These types of thing are a recognition of the entire program, I'm proudest of the fact that we've created a culture where people love to run and work hard," Colbert said. "If we don't have great athletes and great parents supporting them then this doesn't happen."