Bowling Green, Mo — Anyone who's run for the Bobcats for the last twenty years knows Matt Chance. He's not just "coach," but a mentor.
On one side, Chance is a former collegiate All-American runner who has built a cross country and track dynasty, his boys and girls cross country teams making it to the Missouri State finals nearly every year for the last 17 years. The boys won a state title in 2009.
On the other side, Chance is a highly-respected friend of the community, someone who is reliable.
“He cares obviously about running, but that’s not all his concern is. He always wants everybody to be the best person that they can be," said Sylvia Wagner, a junior Bowling Green runner.
It's both sides of Chance that make him a candidate for the U.S. Cellular national Most Valuable Coach award.
“I think he’s worked, the most dedicated coach in the whole nation. He gives us everything, one hundred percent of his effort, and in return, we give him just as much," said Evan Meyer, a sophomore runner.
Chance, who is also the school's athletic director, has settled in Bowling Green because he said he "loves being here." He loves the community.
It was last year when Chance was diagnosed with stage four head and neck cancer. The community, including Chance's runners, rallied in support. They organized a 5k fundraiser run. They sold t-shirts that read #TeamChance. They did whatever they could to support their coach, their friend.
“It’s been a little overwhelming.” “But in a good way," said Chance.
“It’s not necessarily been about me though, it’s been about our team. We have a very family oriented atmosphere here.”
And that close-knit culture is why Chance felt the strength to battle is way back from cancer. He's now in remission.
“They were expecting me to be there and it was something that I was motivated, kept me excited to get back to doing something that I wanted to do," said Chance.
“I’ve always had that feeling that I treat these kids like my own kids," he said.
Voting for the Most Valuable Coach ends November 13. First place wins $80,000 in grant money for his or her school. You can vote online here.