By Bert Borgmann, Colorado High School Activities Association
Before Paralympics and before schools included people with physical and mental handicaps in their athletic and activities programs, Southall participated at Steamboat Springs High School in three sports, as a student leader and in the school’s music program.
He excelled in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the music and student leadership arenas. He accepted the role-model mantel and passes on what he learned to his students and as a coach in high school, youth and Paralympics programs.
This story is about a man who had the determination to not let any obstacle stand in his way.
When he graduated high school in 1981, he ranked third in career rushing yards for the state, had led his team to a Class 2A state title and was the state Football Player of the Year twice, as well as setting the career rushing and single game rushing marks at the time. His track team won three Class 2A state championships and he set the state long jump record.
At the next level, he played football and participated in track for Colorado College. He led the nation in punt-return yardage and set the NCAA Division III career record for kickoff return yards. He was track MVP all four years and set school records in the long jump, 200-meter dash and 4 x 100-meter relay.
He holds an accounting master’s degree, two teaching certifications and has been coaching since 1986 and teaching since 1992. He has coached four sports at all levels of youth sports and in high school.
The Colorado High School Coaches Association has honored him with three coaching service awards as well as 2002 5A Track Coach of the Year after he moved to Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora.
One of Southall’s awards that stands out is the CHSCA Award created in his honor, with him as the first recipient that recognizes contributions made by an individual in the coaching of athletes with special needs and abilities. Another is being named Teacher of the Year.
His work in Paralympics led to trips with the U.S. National Paralympics Track & Field Team to the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, his selection to the 2007 Paralympics Academy in Colorado Springs and 2008 Paralympics Beijing. His work as a coach and leader in Paralympics is lengthy and continues to grow.
Southall’s empathy for students faced with similar challenges to his own, has followed him throughout his life and the impact he has made on thousands of young lives is remarkable. He is one of only two physically-impaired athletes in their state association halls of fame including the CHSAA Hall of Fame. He was a member of the 2016 National High School Hall of Fame Class and now the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Southall’s empathy for students faced with similar challenges to his own, has followed him throughout his life and the impact he has made on thousands of young lives is remarkable.