Beggs track coach Gerard Alexander retires after 36-year career
After 36 years in the coaching field, Beggs coach Gerard Alexander called it a career last May.
“It doesn’t seem like it was 36 years,” Coach Alexander said, about the length of his coaching career. “
Most of Alexander’s coaching career has taken place in Okmulgee County and Beggs Public Schools.
Alexander began his head coaching career in 1987 at Beggs High School, coaching boys and girls track and field. The first 11 seasons were spent at the Okmulgee County school, then Alexander left Beggs after the 1997-1998 school year to become the head track and field coach at Bristow Public Schools.
Alexander spent the next seven seasons at Bristow before making his return to Beggs in the Fall of 2005.
While near the end of his time at Bristow, Alexander was called by (at the time) Beggs superintendent Marsha Norman about the possibilty of returning to the Okmulgee County school and once again take over the reins of the track and field program.
At the time of Norman’s call, Alexander was not planning on leaving Bristow, until a pair of events that occurred during the 2004-2005 school year, while commuting from his home in Okmulgee to Bristow. In November of 2004, Alexander was involved in an automobile accident on Highway 16 near the Dentonville store just west of Beggs, then, six months later, in May of 2005, the longtime coach was involved in another accident on Highway 16.
Alexander looked at Norman’s call as a blessing from God, as the coach was looking at getting away from the long commute to Bristow, especially traveling down Highway 16 for a lengthy distance.
The return to Beggs was the final stop in Alexander’s coaching journey, remaining at the Okmulgee County school for the remainder of his 36-year coaching career.
“I was scared to death,” about becoming a head track and field coach in 1987. “I didn’t know anything about the system and how things worked.”
Despite being nervous in his first year as a head track and field coach, Alexander quickly got the hang of what it takes to be a head coach.
“I just started learning,” the longtime coach said. “I was eager to learn and eager to be the best possible coach and teacher.
“With my coaching, I started out very green and just took it one year at a time and I learned a little bit each and every year and was fortunate and blessed with some good kids (and) had some good assistant coaches to work with and help me along the way.”
Along with coaching cross country and track and field during his 36-year coaching career, Alexander also served as an assistant football coach for 20 years – 13 at Beggs and 7 at Bristow.
In 2000, Alexander earned his first team trophy in track and field, guiding the Bristow Purple Pirate track team to the Class 3A state runner-up in 2000, finishing tied for second with Elk City at the state meet at Choctaw High School.
Nine years later – in 2009, Alexander earned his second state runner-up trophy as a coach when the Beggs Golden Demons finished second in Class 3A to Plainview at Tulsa East Central High School.
In 2013, the long wait for a state championship for Coach Alexander came to an end, as the Beggs Lady Demons captured the Class 3A state championship for the first time in school history.
The 2013 Class 3A state track and field championships was extra special for the longtime coach, as Alexander’s son, Gerron, was the head track coach for the Class 3A state runner-up team – the Millwood Lady Falcons, making the Alexanders the first father-and-son duo to finish first and second as coaches at the same state track and field meet. Gerron’s Lady Falcons edged out Lincoln Christian by one and one-half points (70-68.5) for the second-place finish. While Coach Alexander and his son, Gerron, were battling for the Class 3A girls state track and field championship, Alexander’s former school, Bristow, was crowned the Class 4A boys state track and field champions.
The following year (2014), while Alexander’s Lady Demons were competing at the Class 3A state track and field championships at Moore High School, Gerron Alexander was guiding his Millwood Lady Falcons to the Class 2A state track and field championship at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City.
In 2015, Alexander was able to witness Gerron win his second-straight track and field championship at Millwood, as the Lady Falcons captured the Class 3A state championship at Moore High School.
At Bristow, Alexander had the privilege of coaching his son, Larron, to individual state championships in track and field in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, Larron Alexander brought home individual state gold in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and was a member of the 400 and 1600 meter relay teams that captured gold at the state meet. Larron Alexander was joined on the gold-medal relay teams by Matt Pinson, Justin Fisher, and Michael Thompson. In 2000, Larron Alexander defended his state championships in the 100 and 200 meter dashes to become a 6-time state champion in his high school career.
Alexander has also coached two individual state champions in cross country during his 36-year career – Bristow’s Albert Kelly in 1997 and Beggs’ Regan Ward in 2009.
Alexander’s first individual state track and field champion was Beggs’ Jennifer Swanson in 1991, who captured individual gold in the girls Discus event at the Class 2A state meet. The following year, Swanson defended her Discus state championship and added another gold medal to her trophy case in 1992 by winning the individual state championship in the girls Shot Put.
After making his return to Beggs in the 2005-2006 school year, it did not take the longtime coach long to add another individual state champion to his coaching résumé, as Dorian Williams was able to defend her individual state championship in girls Shot Put at the Class 3A state meet in 2006.
Alexander’s next individual state track and field champion at Beggs was Chris Morgan, who captured an indivdual state championship in the boys 200 meter dash in 2008.
During the 2009 state runner-up finish for the Beggs boys track and field team, the Demons’ 400 meter relay team of D.J. Runnels, Byrce Lewallen, Skylar Johnson, and Michael Devonshire were crowned state champions at the Class 3A state meet at Tulsa East Central High School.
In 2010, Coach Alexander saw his track and field teams score a total of five gold medals at the Class 3A state meet, which included four by freshman runner Regan Ward. Ward captured gold in the 800, 1600, and 3200 meter runs as an individual – the only freshman to accomplish the feat in all classifications in 2010 – and was part of the state runner-up 3200 meter relay team that also consisted of Hallie Smith, Kailia Crawford, and Regan’s older sister, Talor. The girls 1600 meter relay team of Talor Ward, Hallie Smith, Princess Powell, and Kadesha Williams were crowned state champions at the Class 3A state meet in Ardmore. The final state track and field champion for Beggs in 2010 was Chad Creason, who captured individual gold in the boys 300 meter hurdles.
In 2011, Regan Ward presented Coach Alexander with two more individual state championships, winning gold in the 800 and 1600 meter runs. Ward was unable to earn her second three-peat, finishing runner-up to Purcell’s Brooke Klimek in the 3200 meter run at the 2011 Class 3A state meet at Tulsa East Central High School.
The following year, Ward once again earned individual gold in the 1600 meter run for the lone Beggs individual state championship at the 2012 Class 3A state meet in Ardmore. Ward finished runner-up in the 800 and 3200 meter runs that season.
The battle for the Class 3A state championship in 2013 came down to the final two events, as Beggs and Millwood were deadlocked in team points, 7070. The Lady Demons extended their lead by 10 points – 80-70 – at the conclusion of the girls 1600 meter run, which was won by Beggs’ Regan Ward, making the standout a 4-time individual state champion in the event, then the Lady Demons finished second behind Okmulgee in the 1600 meter relay to finish with 96 team points and secure the Class 3A state championship trophy – the first for Beggs, as well as Coach Alexander.
Part of the reason for the Lady Demons’ journey to the state championship in 2013 was the four individual state championships won at the meet. Ward ended her stellar high school running career the same way she began – winning individual gold in the 800, 1600, and 3200 meter runs. The other in- dividual gold medal for the Lady Demons in 2013 came from senior Jamie Campo in the girls Discus event.
In 2013, Alex James was the lone individual state champion for the Beggs boys track and field team, capturing gold in the 300 meter hurdles at the Class 3A state meet.
At the 2014 Class 3A state track and field championships, the Lady Demons were unable to defend their state championship, finishing 17th overall. Despite the team finish, Coach Alexander was able to add another individual state champion to his résumé, as Cassie Rice captured gold in the girls Pole Vault in 2014.
After the 2016 season, Alexander decided it was time to step away from the coaching scene, but continued being an educator, taking over the Alternative Education class.
After a 2-year absence from coaching, Alexander returned to coaching for one year – in the Fall of 2019 at the request of longtime assistant coach Rodney Tate.
‘He (Tate) asked me if I would come help,” said Alexander, about his return to coaching in 2019. “He kind of tricked me on that. It was originally supposed to be to help and I came back to help that first year.”
Being back coaching the girls track and field team in 2019 made Alexander miss getting the opportunity to guide athletes to the kind of success Beggs was known for from 2005-2014.
“I saw that I needed to be out there,” Alexander said. “I always told him, even way back, when she (Tate’s daughter Olivia) was in middle school, ‘I’ll be here to help you’ due to the fact that Coach Tate was wonderful in helping me and I wouldn’t have had the success that I had at Beggs without him.”
After the 2019 season, which saw the Lady Demons finish sixth overall in the team standings and the 800 meter relay team capture the state championship medals at the event, Alexander stepped back into semi-retirement in 2020.
During the 2020-2021 school year, Alexander was ‘tricked’ once again into helping with the track and field program at Beggs, as Tate and Denise Gray asked the longtime coach to come out and help with the program in the early portion of the 2021 track and field season.
After what was originally supposed to be around a 3-week ‘help’ period, Alexander was coaxed into staying the entire 2021 season.
“Coach Gray, she’s convincing,” said Alexander, about being asked to ‘help’ in 2021. “And Coach Tate. They were double-teaming me. ‘Can you stay?’ With both of them talking in my ear, I went ahead and stayed the whole year.”
While Alexander ‘decided’ to stay the entire 2021 season, he was not deemed the head coach.
“We all just worked together and I don’t take credit as head coach for that year,” said Alexander, about working with Gray and Tate in 2021.
In 2021, Alexander was part of another state track and field championship at Beggs, as the Lady Demons captured the Class 3A state championship with a team total of 83 points and finishing 17 points ahead of Cascia Hall for the championship trophy.
The Lady Demons also made history in 2021, as they became the first track and field team to win a state championship with just five team members.
The following season, the Beggs girls track and field squad were able to defend their Class 3A crown, capturing their second-straight state championship with another team total of 83 points. In 2022, the Lady Demons won the title by 20 points, finishing ahead of another private school, Crossings Christian, in the team standings.
After the 2022 state championship, Alexander knew it was the right time to officially step away from the coaching field and enjoy some leisure time with his family, retiring after 36 years of teaching kids the fundamentals of what it takes to be successful in track and field, as well as football.
“It was a heck of a way to end my career,” Alexander stated, about the Lady Demons winning back-to-back state titles in track and field in his last two years of coaching. “Just a blessing.”
If Alexander’s Lady Demons had not won the state championship in 2013, the longtime coach might not have stepped away from coaching in 2016.
“When I retired in 2016, I was satisfied with my career with winning one (state championship) in 2013,” the longtime coach said. “I’ll be honest. If I had not won one during my career, I’d have had a little dissatisfaction. But, nevertheless, it worked out.”
With all of the success he had while coaching at Beggs and Bristow, some wondered why Alexander didn’t take his knowledge to bigger schools in Class 5A or Class 6A.
“I had a family member or two ask ‘Why not go big….(Class) 6A….somewhere, because you can do it’,” Alexander said. “’You could get that program running. You’re doing well with the talent you’ve got here. You go to a big school, you’ll really knock it out of the park’.
“But I look at it as small school…. more personal….you know the kids more….the people you work with, you build a more personal relationship with them.”
During his 36-year career, Alexander actually did apply for coaching jobs at bigger schools and also had a couple of bigger schools offer him a job, but the longtime coach felt that it was important for him to stay where he was at during those times.
“For some reason, I didn’t take it or, for some reason, the job wasn’t offered,” said Alexander. “I see it as it was God’s will for me to be at Beggs the years I was there and at Bristow.”
Track and field was not Alexander’s first love while in high school, the longtime coach participated in football and wrestling as a freshman at Okmulgee High School and raced members of the track team in some friendly races on the streets of Okmulgee and actually was outrunning many of the Bulldog track stars.
Alexander was so good at winning these ‘races’ that one of his friends asked him about why he wasn’t competing on the track team.
“I had a friend say ‘Man, you’re winning all these races, but nobody knows (about you), why not go out for track,” said Alexander, about how he found his love for track and field. “So, my sophomore year, I went out for track.”
Alexander competed for the OHS track and field team during his sophomore year in 1977 under head coach Dan Rhodes and obtained a little success in his first season as a member of the Bulldog track and field team.
In his junior year in 1978, Alexander was one of nine Bulldog members to qualify for the state track and field championships and was a member of the 440 yard relay team that qualified for State, along with Juan James, Chuck Mitchell, and Ricky Robinson.
In his senior year, Alexander and the Bulldogs captured the regional championship with Alexander capturing regional championships in both the 100 and 220 yard dashes and was a member of the regional championship-winning 440 yard relay team that also featured James, Mitchell, and Robinson.
With his succcessful junior and senior seasons in high school, Alexander took his love for track and field to Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton and was a 4-time All-American at the 2-year junior college, earning All-American in two different events each year.
While running track at EOSC, Alexander met Glenn Stone, who inspired the runner to get into the coaching field.
“I saw how he did things and he became a mentor for me,” said Alexander, about meeting Coach Stone.
After completing his two years at Eastern, Alexander finished up his collegiate track and field career at Central State University in Edmond, which is now known as the University of Central Oklahoma and continued to be successful in a sport that was not his first love.
Alexander did not want to get away from track and field, so he decided that he wanted to pass on his knowledge to other kids and got into the coaching field, beginning in 1987 at Beggs Public Schools.
“Once my actual running career was over, I said ‘I don’t want to leave this’,” the longtime coach stated. “I got my degree and everything and I said that’s what I want to do with it.
“I just love the sport and it’s a beautiful sport. Not knocking any other sport, but (track) allows all of the kids that’s on the team to participate in real time.”
As a show of appreciation for all of the success Alexander accomplished during his 36-year coaching career, the longtime coach was inducted into the Oklahoma Track Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame this past January in a special ceremony during the OTCA’s winter clinic at the Grand Hotel and Resort in Shawnee. Alexander was inducted alongside Kent Douglas of Edmond North, Brad Farrow of Broken Arrow, Sherry McCulley of Grove and Coalgate, and Lynn Minor of Broken Bow.
“It was special,” said Alexander, about his Hall of Fame induction. “I’m not one that says ‘I hope I get this’. I’m just happy that I was able to coach and whatever.
“It was quite a surprise and when it happened, it was a thrill to be mentioned among some of the great ones (coaches) that’s come through and my name will forever be in the mix.
“I was just humbled. I said ‘I don’t know if I belong’, but as I thought about it, yeah I belong in that group and to see my name … right now … at the top of the list (of HOF inductees on the ohstrack.com website).”
At the Hall of Fame induction, Alexander got an unexpected surprise, as one of his former athletes, Seth Hawkins, drove more than nine hours from his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in order to be with Alexander on the special occasion.
Hawkins had one more surprise for his former coach after the Hall of Fame ceremony, as Hawkins paid for the meal for Alexander and his family following the event.
“We got ready to pay the bill and the waitress said that it had already been taken care of,” Alexander said. “He ended up paying for our dinner.”
Following his 36-year coaching career, Coach Alexander wanted to give a special ‘Thank You’ to a few people, beginning with his wife, Audrey.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” the longtime coach said, about his No. 1 Fan. “She’s always been supportive through the celebrations or when I came through the door mad cause something didn’t go right and she would be there to support.
“I want to thank her for all of the times when she was there helping with the teams, especially when our boys were coming through and even some after (they graduated) and I couldn’t have done it without her support.”
Alexander also wanted to give a special shoutout to three coaches that helped during his 36year coaching career Chris Morton at Bristow and Rodney Tate and Denise Gray at Beggs.
The longtime coach also wanted to say a special ‘Thank You’ to both the Bristow and Beggs administrations, especially former Beggs superintendent Marsha Norman, who made a promise to find a way to build a track for Coach Alexander when she invited him to return to Beggs in 2005.
Even though he has been out of coaching for more than 365 days, Alexander still has a little flame that still burns inside and hasn’t ruled out returning to coaching track and field in the distant future.
“I won’t say that I’ll never come back,” said Alexander. “Not saying it won’t be in the capacity as a head coach, but I just enjoy (coaching) the kids so much and enjoy the sport so much (that) I kind of miss it a little bit.”
Whether or not he returns to coaching in the future, Coach Alexander, right now, is enjoying some free time after a long and successful 36-year coaching career for a sport whose love began at the encouragement of a friend while being a freshman at Okmulgee High School in 1975-76.