Former Highland Park Athletes To Honor Sutterfield Thursday

Highland Park girls cross country coach Jerry Sutterfield hugs Natalie Rathjen after her third-place finish at the 2011 District 10-4A Championships in McKinney. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)
Highland Park girls cross country coach Jerry Sutterfield hugs Natalie Rathjen after her third-place finish at the 2011 District 10-4A Championships in McKinney. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

Jerry Sutterfield has spent the majority of his lengthy career at Highland Park celebrating and taking pride in the accomplishments of his athletes. The shoe will be on the other foot Thursday night.

Friends, colleagues, family members, and current and former athletes will gather at 6 p.m. in the HPHS cafeteria to honor Sutterfield, who recently retired from his full-time positions of girls athletic director and girls head cross country coach. During his career at Highland Park ISD that started in 1985, Sutterfield has coached basketball, football, wrestling, and track and field. He took over as girls cross country coach in 1994 and has led the Lady Scots to an incredible nine state championships. The Lady Scots have won a girls’ record 14 state titles.

“It’s pretty cool,” Sutterfield said of the approaching party. “What’s pretty fun is the people organizing it are pretty stealthy on some stuff. They’ve contacted my wife a whole lot, but they’re leaving me totally out of it, which is a little scary. But my big thing is just to get to see a lot of people that have meant a lot to me for a while. It’s really neat.”

Although numerous athletes whom Sutterfield has coached throughout the years are involved in the celebration, 1997 cross country captains Deighton (Marzuola) Gongora, Hadleigh Henderson, Shelley Matthews, and Bonny-Kate (Marshall) Ralston spear-headed the event.

“When we heard about it, we were so surprised,” Matthews said of Sutterfield’s retirement. “It kind of took us off-guard. Immediately, we were like, ‘We have to do something.’ The four of us got together and started planning. It really just snow-balled from there, because we wanted to get in touch with all of the former athletes. That got us in touch with Jan Peterson at the education foundation. Since then, we’ve been partnering with them, and they have been fantastic. They have all of the resources and the contacts. They’ve been the central point in all of this through which everything is running.”

The Highland Park Education Foundation is also helping raise money for the Jerry Sutterfield Gift Fund and Endowment Fund. And several people and businesses have been involved in the celebration ceremony. Among them are: Afiore Catering (cookie and brownie tray), Bear Wire Video (event videographer), Coffee Productions (produced video for the event), Nathan Burke (catering), Plains Capital Bank ($1,500 cash toward the event), Ralston Outdoor Advertising (artwork, digital billboard on Central Expressway, and programs), and Sam Cade (cake). Elizabeth (Thayer) Speicher and Brian Hegi, captains of the class of 1995, have also been active in fundraising and reaching out to former Scots.

Clearly, Sutterfield has had a tremendous influence on several athletes he’s coached throughout the years.

“I’ve never met a man who has made me feel more welcome,” Lady Scots rising senior Byers Petty said. “I came from a different school, and he was really the first teacher I met there [at Highland Park]. He immediately was so welcoming — and I needed that. I was a terrified, chunky little freshman who couldn’t run at all, but he still had such a heart for me. He always has a smile and hugs everybody. He’s the kind of man who, if I didn’t have anyone else there for me, I wouldn’t mind asking him to walk me down the aisle.”

Sutterfield, 56, will remain with the district on a part-time basis as the coordinator for student integrity and compliance.

Girls track and field head coach Susan Bailey will take over coaching cross country for him. But first, Sutterfield will go out with a bang.

“It’s been a neat career and a great place,” Sutterfield said.

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