John Ruggeberg

John Ruggeberg, left, poses for a photo with Jim Flim, center, and Bill Schmidt at the Jim Flim Invitational in 2018.

John Ruggeberg, who helped the Winona Senior High School boys and girls cross country teams win 23 conference titles, 16 section titles and four state titles during his three decades as an assistant and head coach, was inducted into the Minnesota Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a ceremony Monday, Aug. 5.

Ruggeberg served as the Winhawks assistant boys and girls cross country coach from 1980-2000, then was the head coach from 2001-2009. He also was an assistant track and field coach in 1971, then again from 1977 to 1994.

“He was instrumental to the success Winona teams had as an assistant and expanded on that tradition as a head coach,” said Jed Reisetter, who succeeded Ruggeberg as the cross country coach at WSHS. “I had the pleasure of being John’s assistant coach for his last two years of coaching. For me, it was an education in managing, inspiring and being an example for young adults that I had not received in any other setting. It is only because of what I learned as an assistant under Coach Ruggenberg that I was able to become the head coach after him.”

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Ruggeberg’s teams made 27 appearances at the MSHSL state meet, and he coached runners to a total of four individual state titles. He was the Big 9 Conference coach of the year in 2005 (boys), 2006 (boys), 2007 (girls) and 2008 (girls), and the Section 1AA coach of the year in 2003 (boys), 2005 (boys), 2007 (girls) and 2008 (girls).

Ruggeberg coached Garrett and Elliott Heath to multiple state, section and conference titles before they embarked on All-American careers at Stanford.

“His coaching and mentoring reach far beyond the limits of our sport,” said Garrett Heath in a 2009 Winona Daily News article. “I can honestly say that I would not have gotten to where I am today, both athletically and as a person, if it had not been for the coaching and guidance that Coach Ruggeberg has given me over the years.”

The Winhawks cross country program plans to publicly honor Ruggeberg at some point this season.

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