MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Walters State Community College has announced the hiring of Morristown West High School's Raymond Farmer as its new cross country coach, taking over the reins of the program that will see a rebirth beginning this fall.
Farmer, a highly successful coach at West, leading the program to six state cross country championships during his 27 years at the school, was a top target of Walters State athletic director Derek Creech once the addition of the cross country program was announced last fall, and Creech was happy to bring him in to lead the Senators and Lady Senators.
"We are excited to have Coach Raymond Farmer join the Walters State coaching family and lead our new cross country programs," Walters State athletic director Derek Creech said. "What Coach Farmer has accomplished at Morristown West has been an amazing feat. He isn't just a tremendous distance coach, but he is also a great man."
Farmer's credentials as a coach are unrivaled. After competing in college at Carson-Newman, where he was a district cross country champion in 1988-89, a national qualifier in 1988-89 and 1991, an All-American in 1989 and a four-year national track qualifier from 1989-92, he entered coaching as an assistant at West in 1992.
Since then, Farmer was an assistant coach for two state runner-up girl's teams in 1992 and 1993 before taking over the head coaching role in 1996. As a head coach, he has been named the Inter Mountain Conference cross country Coach of the Year 22 times in 23 years of both the boys and girls while also earning 11 Region 1 Coach of the Year honors (seven for girls, four for boys). He has coached six TSSAA Class AAA state championship teams, including four for the Lady Trojans (2005, 2006, 2013, 2014) and two for the Trojans (2008, 2010) while also having two teams finish second (2004 girls and 2009 boys).
Farmer was named the Tennessee Coach of the Year in 2005, the National Federation of High School's South Section Women's Coach of the Year in 2006, the A.F. Bridges Sportsmanship Award Coach of the Year for the 2007-08 school year and the United State Track and Field Coaches Association Girl's Cross Country Coach of the Year for Tennessee in 2014.
Farmer has also been the head track coach at West from 1993-2004, again in 2012 and currently after taking over again in 2017. He will remain the track coach and a teacher at West as he takes over the Walters State cross country program.
Farmer has coached 18 individuals to All-State honors in cross country and 20 more to All-State performances in track and field. He has garnered more than 5,000 career wins in cross country and another 300-plus in track.
"This was a very difficult decision, and I put a lot of prayer and time into making this decision," Farmer said. "This was not an immediate acceptance of the job. I felt like it is where God wants me to be, and with that being the case, I felt at peace about taking the job.
"Granted, I will miss the high school aspect of coaching, but I will get to see my daughters run and get to go to their meets as a father. I will miss training kids at the high school level. That will be a little bit of an adjustment."
Farmer is looking forward to building the resurrected program from the ground floor, saying he has always wanted to see more kids get the opportunity to run at the collegiate level. With the addition of the program at Walters State, he can personally do just that while also drawing attention to Morristown in the process.
"It's a new program, a reactivation of an old program, that I wanted to see happen, and I always want to see cross country get a boost, both in athletes and recognition, because these athletes work very hard," Farmer said. "I thought this would be a great opportunity to get on the ground floor and do something on the collegiate level and help a lot of our local kids be capable of running at that level. Some of those kids may not be able to go run at the NCAA Division I or Division II level or even NAIA, and this may be a stepping stone for those kids to get to those schools. I felt like if I could help them out with this, it would be a great opportunity.
"I have to put a lot of research into the other teams and look at what the other teams' athletes can do, look at the courses. It will take some time, but eventually you look at bettering the school, the athletes and so forth. I really like drawing attention to Morristown because I really feel like our town needs to be on the map. If I can do anything to help do that, then I will do it."
Farmer's coaching pedigree and name recognition throughout the state of Tennessee should help bolster Walters State's program, especially in the early stages. And if he can bring in the type of runners he expects to bring in, he sees competing at the national level as something that will happen sooner rather than later.
"Hopefully that will work to our advantage," Farmer said of his past success. "Of course, if the kids aren't willing and wanting to work hard, they probably won't be interested in running for us. We will help them to get as far as they can physically achieve, and we will do whatever we can to help further their potential.
"I think this program has the potential to compete on the national level, based on what I've see thus far. As long as we are able to recruit in the athletes that I feel like we can get, then I think there is an opportunity there to at least get us to the nationals. After we get there, it's going to be tough because of the recruiting that a lot of the other schools do from out of the country. But our goal will be to make it to the national championships, and then we will see what we do when we get there."