Butte High’s Lynn Shrader a finalist for national honor

By Bill Foley

Lynn Shrader has officially joined some pretty impressive company at Butte High School.

The head coach of the Bulldog swimming program recently learned that she is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award.

She is the third Butte High coach to be named a finalist an NHSACA national award, joining Bulldog legends Jim Street and Charlie Merrifield.

Street won the award in wrestling, while Merrifield was a finalist for track & field. Merrifield was inducted into the NHSACA Hall of Fame in 2016.

“It is really exciting. It was unexpected,” Shrader said. “When I got the email, it was shocking. I was excited, but it was an honor.”

Next week, Shrader will head to the 2022 NHSACA National Convention at the Prairie Meadows Casino, Race Track and Hotel in Altoona, Iowa, which is just outside Des Moines. The award will be handed out next Wednesday.

At the convention, Shrader will give a presentation to the other swimming coach finalists. She is one of eight finalists for the honor.

“I think my title is ‘High School Swimming in Montana; The Rural Side Of It,’” Shrader said. “It’s different.”

All you have to do is watch Shrader in action at one swimming meet to see that she, too, is different. The passion flows from the head coach, whether she is coaching a Special Olympian on the team or a defending state champion.

“I’m a little animated,” Shrader said understatedly.

The coach has been known to end up in the pool — fully dressed with her shoes on. Bulldog swimmers have thrown Shrader in the water multiple times to celebrate a strong season following the state mee.

That was the case in 2020, when the Butte High girls’ team captured the third-place trophy in Great Falls. That was the best finish of any Butte High team during Shrader’s years leading the Bulldogs.

Shrader has coached five individual state champions — her son Ethan, Lou Young Gerbandt, Jake Bentley, Catherine Russo and Thad Holdsworth.

“I’ve had five swimmers that I coached (as a head coach or assistant) that have placed in college and have had really good college careers,” Shrader said.

Russo is currently swimming at Ohio State University, and the list of Butte High All-State swimmers under Shrader is in the dozens.

Shrader, who was born in New Jersey and raised mostly in Billings, has been head coach of the Bulldogs since 2007. She moved to Butte from Glasgow with her husband Ken and sons Ethan and Logan in 2001 and started teaching at Butte High in 2002.

Ethan Shrader, who graduated in 2011, became the first Butte High boy to earn 12 varsity letters for the Bulldogs. Only Tommy Mellott has done the same. Logan Shrader, who graduated in 2012, earned 11 letters.

Lynn and Ken Shrader also raised three foster children during their time in the Mining City.

Shrader, a health and physical education teacher, started coaching the Bulldogs in 2002. She worked as an assistant under coach Sara (Palmer) Novak before taking over the program when Novak stepped down.

As an assistant and head coach, Shrader has poured her heart into the Butte High swimming program.

“I really enjoy it a lot, and I enjoy coaching with my two coaches,” Shrader said, referring to Amber Walter and Josh Huckabee. “Without the three of us, our program wasn’t where it was at.”

Other recent assistant coaches include Ron Johnson and her son Ethan.

Butte High’s swimming program has routinely been among the most popular sports at the school under Shrader. On year, the coach had 43 swimmers out for the team. In 2018, the Bulldogs sent 20 swimmers to the MHSA State Swim Meet. In 2020, Butte High qualified 17.

“This was my smallest year, and I only had 22,” Shrader said. “We have a lot of fun, but they work really hard.”

Next week, Shrader will share a stage with some of the best coaches in the country. She is hopeful that she will be named the national Coach of the Year, but she said just being a finalist already surpassed her expectations.

“It’s an honor,” Shrader said.

Other finalist for the swimming and diving category are Bridget Carmody of Madison Central High School in Mississippi, Ron Chapin of Buffalo High School in Wyoming, B.J. Christiansen of Marian High School in Nebraska, Rory Fairbanks of Hutchinson High School in Minnesota, Susan Hoyt of Gastonbury High School in Connecticut, Todd Larkin of Saint Xavier High School in Kentucky and Christina Lasserre of E.D. White Catholic High School in Louisiana.

Shrader sees no end in sight to her coaching career, even after having her named mentioned in the same sentence as to of Butte High’s greatest coaches.

Who knows? Maybe she will continue coaching long enough to join Street and Merrifield as Bulldog coaches who were finalists for the national honor multiple times.

“As of now, I couldn’t tell you how long I plan to coach the high school,” Shrader said. “I enjoy it, and the kids and I get along really well. So, I don’t know when I’ll retire.”