Polk County head track coach Alan Peoples dressed the part of Santa Claus at the school's annual Reindeer Games.

Alan Peoples has spent his life as an educator, both on and off the track and cross country trail, as well as an active leader in his community.

That life of service and the success Peoples has seen during it has garnered the attention of the National Federation of High Schools Coaches Association, which has honored Peoples as the 2015 North Carolina Coach of the Year for boys cross country.

Peoples, who has guided Polk County’s boys program to three straight Western Highlands Conference cross country titles, learned of the award earlier this year. He was chosen from a group of nominees across the state.

“Frankly, I’m floored,” Peoples said. “I’m not the winningest cross country coach in the state by a long shot. A lot of coaches I know have coached longer than I have and have had more state champions that I’ve had.

“That being said, I’ve got as much education as far as coaching as anyone I know. I believe you never stop learning.”

Peoples is the only boys cross country coach that Polk County High has ever had, leading the program since 1989. He has sent more than 40 athletes to compete at the collegiate level and has had more than 40 state champions in cross country and track during his tenure.

Active at the regional and state level as a track and field and cross country meet director, Peoples has also been extremely active outside of education in Polk County, serving as a county commissioner, mayor of Tryon and on numerous local boards.

“The most important thing, in my opinion, is helping kids in school and helping kids athletically,” Peoples said. “I like to see them move on to college and have better lives.”