St. Paul Central
Paul Virgin is 57 years old. He has 3 children and 3 grand children. He is married to fellow teacher, Eudene. They share a love of the American southwest and the native cultures of that area. When Paul and Eudene retire at the end of the school year 2004 they plan on moving to Arizona.
Paul has been a middle and high school art teacher with the St. Paul public schools since 1970. During most of his career in teaching, Paul has been a coach. He has coached jr. high soccer and track, senior high track, cross country running and nordic skiing. Paul loves to coach and he strongly believes in giving students the opportunity to participate in sport. One year he even volunteered to coach for free in order to keep the nordic ski program from being cut due to a budget crisis.
Paul was very successful as a nordic ski coach at St. Paul Central. For many years St. Paul Central was the team to beat in Nordic skiing and many coaches looked up to Paul as a roll model of successful coaching. His St Paul Central boys and girls nordic ski team won the state championship in 1991. The boys went on to capture the state title for 2 more years in 1992 and 1993. Paul was chosen as Coach of the Year by his peers in the high school nordic ski coaches association in 1991. He served as secretary of the association from 1989-1993.
Paul currently teaches art, and coaches track and cross-country running at Arlington High School in St. Paul. He is an avid outdoorsman; he loves hiking, camping and skiing. Even though he has retired from nordic ski coaching, Paul still competes in nordic ski races. In 2004, Paul was third in his age group for the classic division at the Birkibiener Nordic Ski Race in Hayward, Wisconsin.
Though he grew up in north central Aitkin County, Denny, as he is known to all, had no skiing experience at all until he was in the Twin Cities in about 1975. "There were coyote hunters and trappers who got around the bogs on huge long, wide skis with leather toe straps," he recalls. "Those skis can still be found in barns and sheds up there.
"My first skis were bought from "Casey" of TV fame. He had a bike shop and got in on the first real revival of cross-country in the mid '70's. I got bamboo poles and three-pin boots and started bushwhacking around my house in Andover on Sundays. I still have my wife's skis, a lovely pair of wood-laminated Bonna's."
His first race was the classic Torger Tokle Tour in Avon in about 1977. "I was late for the start on the lake. I asked the women at the start how long the race was and they said 13k. I asked what that was in American. I finished and went in for the awards in Dino's Ballroom. The other skiers were such a great looking group, fit and happy. I decided right then that this was a great thing to pursue."
He's been pursuing it ever since. "I've done twenty-three straight Mora Vasaloppets, and I don't know how many other races. I've never done the Birke, though. It seems like such a big deal with housing and so on. Maybe someday." The Marine Race at O'Brien is another favorite, along with the St. Paul series starting on New Year's Day.
His coaching career at Coon Rapids began in 1978 when Brian Knutson, who had won a state title two years previously, asked him to take the coaching spot. "I think I was the only one on the staff who had ever skied cross country, so I guess the kids figured I was the logical candidate. Our captain, Jan (Woodard) Terhaar, became the first girl from CR to qualify for state that year. That's a great memory."
Denny's "first" coaching career spanned eighteen seasons at Coon Rapids. He retired in 1999 and didn't coach at all for a season until he began his current coaching stint as a volunteer at Champlin Park. "I may have the middle-schoolers this season," he reports.
Two terms, as our Association's presidents are included in Denny's resume'. "What a great group to work with. Our wrestling and hockey coaches used to come back from Section seeding meetings looking like they'd done battle. Our group always seems to focus on what's best for the sport and the kids," he says.
A real personal highlight for him came with his election to the Association's Hall of Fame. "I was struggling to the finish at the Finlandia. Glen Sorenson, who'd been done for about an hour, came out just past the tunnel and said, 'Nice going on the Hall of Fame.' I hadn't been at State, so that was my first news of it. Coming from my peers made it terrific."
Future plans? "Keep 'em pointed down the right track."