Thursday morning, longtime Midlothian coach Stan Morgan passed away surrounded by the people he loved. He was 84 years old. Early plans are in place for a memorial service in the coming weeks.
Coach Morgan, or as many knew him, Stan The Man, was one of the most legendary coaches in Virginia history. He coached Midlothian high school for decades (until 2022) and tallied up 12 cross country team titles with four individual champions as well.
You could write books on his coaching record and the athletes he coached from beginners to NCAA stars but what he will truly be remembered for will be him as a person.
Below you will find just a few of the posts that have started popping up on Facebook remembering Stan for all that he was.
Stan Morgan - Coach, Educator, Mentor
By Dave Watt
Falling leaves and crisp mornings with fields awash in overnight dew and rising mist. It's November and it's the penultimate weekends of high school and college cross country. It was Stan Morgan's time of year.
It was on one of these Fall mornings that I first met Stan at the then A, AA, and AAA State Cross Country Championships. The place was the Great Meadow Events Center or where the horses run cross country and for this one weekend, it was where high school teams from across the Commonwealth of Virginia would line up their best seven runners to attempt to win a state title. It was November 2006 and my daughter was a freshman on West Springfield's cross country team. The longstanding Head Coach of this team was Vic Kelbaugh. It was his final season, 34th as the Boys Head Coach. I was standing near Coach Kelbaugh when Stan came walking up the hill from the Finish Line area. He walked with his hand outstretched toward Vic Kelbaugh. He wished Vic and the West Springfield team well. It was a passing of the torch in some ways. Both men had battled over the years in a friendly way. Multiple state championships resulted for both of these legendary coaches.
It can be argued that Stan's cross country teams, both boys and girls at Midlothian were as dominant as any team in the Commonwealth. Yet his teams' wins and national accolades were not what stood out to me. Every time I saw he smiled and said "how are you Dave Watt?!" That could have adjacent to the finish area the at Great Meadow or in the stands at a college or high school indoor / outdoor track meet. He asked me how I was doing as well as my daughter Alex. You knew he genuinely cared. That transcended to his Central Virginia community and to athletes on college campuses, towns and cities beyond Virginia.
I saw a lot of Stan Morgan in my former coach at Marshall HS back in the early 70s. Belief in your self, belief in your teammates, belief in your goals. Those simple beliefs impacted me. In the post 2000 era, it is clear to this parent, and former assistant coach that Stan would get 7 boys or 7 girls to race cross country with those beliefs. Talent alone does not win a state championship. Stan knew it and he had his teams in lock step.
Stan's love of cross country went beyond Virginia. Each fall he and Coach Dave Davis would drive west to Terra Haute Indiana for the NCAA D1 National Championships. It was one weekend that was an "off" weekend in racing high school cross country. The two vagabond coaches would zip the exit on MD Route 270 past a post season event I produced. I always tried to get them to come for chicken barbecue we served post-race. Freshly smoked barbecue chicken and a unique postseason high school meet was not strong enough to detour them from working the finish line at the NCAA Championship.
My day job got to witness Stan and his girls teams that earned spots in the Nike Team Cross Country Nationals. Stan had a presence and exuded the same confidence and humble way out at the Nike national team cross country championship. He had his teams prepared for what was a uniquely challenging meet. The weather could be brutal. Wind, rain, mud and 40 degrees. No matter for Stan. It was a chance to race the best in pure cross country. The Nike Meet or NXN as it's called today remembered Stan and his team. He outperformed expectations. Nike's meet directors noticed. His teams were one of few from Virginia that have earned "At-Large" selections. Racing as a team in a national championship always meant more. I loved racing around in the sloppy course taking photos almost as much as Stan enjoyed have 7 athletes racing in a national championship. Stan loved the purity of it and everyone he led knew it.
Why am I thinking of Stan Morgan today? What do I take away from someone who had great meaning in the lives of Midlothian HS graduates? Virginia is part of the first row of bedrock in national high school cross country. If there are ten boulders holding up the foundation of high school cross country, I'll put Virginia as #10. I am that old guy runner who just happened to have a seat in this great sport of cross country. I worked in the sport of running. Creating running events for kids and high school cross country runners was at out core. I saw Stan Morgan has part of that bedrock. He clearly paved a way forward for so many people.
From my view today I see water in a harbor in Rhode Island. I have that itch to be part of just one more high school cross country. Stan had that itch right up until he left us. Today's athletes benefit from coaches, educators and leaders like Stan Morgan. I hope the messages of a Coach Morgan can be passed to each team competing at the six divisions for Virginia State Cross Country Championships. Belief in yourself and belief in your teammates.