Doing it her way for 41 years

Sports Editor

Jane Reimer-Morgan isn’t sure exactly when she decided she wanted to become a high school track coach, but in her case the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

(SUN SAILOR STAFF PHOTO BY John Sherman)
Minnetonka coach Jane Reimer-Morgan shouts encouragement to Skipper runners during the 2017 State Class AA Track and Field Meet at Hamline University.

Reimer-Morgan, the long-time Minnetonka High coach who was inducted in the Minnesota Track and Field Coaches’ Hall of Fame earlier this year, remembers how she tagged along with her dad when he coached high school track at Ellsworth (1966-1970), and later at Pillager, where he was the coach from 1971-1993.

“I began going to meets with my dad when I was 4 years old,” Reimer-Morgan recalled. “I would ride along with the team in a car and I would do all kinds of errands for the coaches.”

During her days as an elementary school student, Reimer-Morgan looked forward to recess, when she would challenge classmates to races.

“I was a track geek,” she said. “I saved up and got a subscription to Track and Field News. I loved to read about world records. I knew them all and what countries the athletes were from.”

At the time Reimer-Morgan began helping her dad (John Reimer), there were no high school varsity sports programs for girls. Title IX was still several years away.

When Title IX was adopted, Reimer-Morgan was a ninth-grader at Pillager High School, and that meant she was in on the ground floor. She was quick to join the volleyball and basketball teams and, of course, the track team.

“Before I was in high school, my dad took me to compete in track meets in South Dakota during the summers,” said Reimer-Morgan. “Some of the track events were different when I first started than they are now. I remember we had the softball throw instead of the shot put at first, and the two hurdle races were 110 and 180 yards. My dad wasn’t my high school coach for girls track, but I was fortunate that he had given me so many pointers when I was growing up.”

After an outstanding sports career at Pillager High, Reimer-Morgan enrolled at Bemidji State College, where she continued to excel in athletics. She made the decision to follow her dad into teaching and coaching, and to this day she has no regrets.

“I had a background from being around my dad for so many years,” she said. “When I first interviewed for an assistant track coaching job at Minnetonka in 1985, Bob Rogness was the head coach. During the interview, I found out that he’s from the same hometown as my dad, Luverne, Minnesota.”

That coincidence didn’t have much to do with Reimer-Morgan getting the job, however, it did give her a common bond with Rogness.

After 14 seasons as an assistant track coach, Reimer-Morgan became head coach in 1999.

She began coaching girls cross country in 1990 as an assistant to coach Rogness, and she is now the head coach. When Reimer-Morgan joined the cross country staff, there were 20 girls out for the sport. Now there are 110.

For 25 years, Reimer-Morgan helped make the Minnetonka track and cross country teams perennial state contenders. She was an assistant coach on Minnetonka teams that won state track championships in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1992. As head coach, she led the Skippers to two more state titles in 2013 and 2014.

Asked to explain her success, Reimer-Morgan said, “With all of our state championship teams, the thing they had in common was a great team effort. We have had so many great athletes in the program, along with wonderful support from the parents.”

A year ago, Reimer-Morgan decided it was time to cut back to being head coach in only one of her two sports, so she resigned as track coach, passing the reins to John Steffen, who guided the Skippers to the state Class AAA True Team title last spring.

Reimer-Morgan didn’t officially help Steffen with the 2017 track team, but she was at all of the big meets to encourage the girls she had coached in past years.

“Being a head track coach is three times more work than being an assistant coach,” Reimer-Morgan observed. “I have always been kind of a control freak. To be successful, you have to know what your strong points are and also be aware of the competition.”

Reimer-Morgan’s pride and joy in all of her years as the Skippers’ head track coach was the 4×800-meter relay. The Skippers had a string of state titles in that event that may never be broken. Two of her best runners, Katie Hollimon and Molly Lehman, were on state-champion 4×800 relay teams three years in a row.

“Minnetonka won the 4×800 state title eight times, so we set the standard in the event,” said Reimer-Morgan.

While the coach’s latest hall-of-fame award is gratifying, it is one of many she has achieved during her career as an athlete and a coach.

Her athletic achievements earned her membership in the Pillager High and Bemidji State Halls of Fame. She joined the Minnesota State Cross Country Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 2008. She has also been enshrined as the only Minnetonka High coach in the Minnesota State High School Coaches’ Hall of Fame, which encompasses all sports.

Reimer-Morgan is proud of her dad, who taught her how to love track and field, and also proud of her younger sisters, Trisha Reimer-Kealy and Karla Jensen, who both followed her into the teaching/coaching profession.

“Karla and I have 82 years of coaching between us, and Trisha has 23 for a total of 105,” said Reimer-Morgan. “Whenever we get together, we have a lot of fun talking track around the dinner table.”

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