After a lengthy nomination process from each region of Kansas, the Kansas State High School Athletic Association has named Manuel Hernandez, Immaculata High School's head boys and girls tennis coach, as the Class 3-2-1A boys tennis coach of the year.
The award comes on the heels of a successful season for the Raider boys. Immaculata finished third at its regional tournament then had four players qualify for the state tournament.
At the state tournament, Hernandez's son, Phillip, finished seventh in the state for the Raiders while Sam Reed finished ninth and Imac earned a sixth-place finish out of 19 teams.
The Raider tennis program fields, on average, 10-13 players, but with the small size of Immaculata's student body, Hernandez said it gives him a nice bragging point.
"I like to boast that I've got 10 percent of our student body playing tennis," Hernandez said. "Most schools can't say that, but when you're as small as we are, with 100 or so kids, and you've got 10-13 playing tennis, I think that's a pretty good number."
Head Lansing High School tennis coach Ed Fenton, a friend and rival coach of Hernandez, said the two coaches have had a great relationship since Fenton arrived a few years ago.
Since he came to Lansing, Fenton said Hernandez immediately extended a helping hand as a fellow coach.
"We definitely have a strong rivalry between Lansing and Imac, there's also a pretty strong friendship there," Fenton said. "He was one of the first people, when I started coaching five years ago, that kind of helped me out, gave me some pointers. He's always been there to bounce ideas off of."
Fenton said the award is well-deserved for Hernandez, whose team succeeded despite budgetary concerns. Imac also hosted the 2014 regional tournament in Leavenworth.
"I think it just proved to everybody what a good coach he is," Fenton said. "And how good of tennis program Imac does have."
Hernandez said he was humbled by the award.
To win, each region submits a candidate for Coach of the Year. After that, coaches from across the state narrow nominations to a single, deserving candidate.
He said it's because of this lengthy process that he is so honored to be named coach of the year.
"I'm not one of those looking for (accolades)," Hernandez said. "It was exciting, you're thankful that your peers feel strongly about you. ... Now going into my 15th season, I've come to know a lot of the coaches in the 3-2-1A Regional, and there's some outstanding coaches out there. To have a majority of them consider you worthy of such an accolade — it's a great feeling."
Fenton said he admires how Hernandez treats his team and young tennis players.
As friends and rival coaches, the two teams practice and attend camps together, as well as compete against each other.
Fenton said it's always a good feeling to beat Hernandez's team on the court, but he said Hernandez provides a good example for his team and others.
"He's like that fatherly figure," Fenton said. "He's not yelling at them, it's always in a way that you can see he really cares about the kids."