Southeast girls basketball coach John Harder in battle for USA Today National Coach of the Year

adell@bradenton.comFebruary 27, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Southeast High School girls varsity basketball coach John Harder was last in line to help cut down the nets during a school-wide celebration of the teams state championship at Southeast High School on Tuesday. This is Harder's fourth state championship win at the school. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

— Despite just winning his third state title, Southeast High girls basketball coach John Harder is far from finished.

Harder is in a fierce battle to be named USA Today’s National Girls High School Coach of The Year and is more than holding his own. The best thing is that anyone can help the popular coach and apparently many are doing so.

The contest is a multi-step process that begins with being named state coach of the year. Harder easily won the state competition with 30,000 plus votes and is now in a heated fight to take the region championship.

Harder currently leads Region 3, capturing 47.7 percent of the votes cast so far. His biggest competition at the moment is Hazel Green High (Ala.) head coach Tim Miller, who has 33.6 percent of the votes.

The other coaches in the Region 3 competition are from Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. With his 713 victories, Harder has the most wins of any coach in Region 3.

The winner of Region 3 moves on to the national round that will be held from March 5th through March 12th.

Harder won the state competition with 30,211 votes; swamping the competition with the second place coach getting 129 votes.

The girls coach competition is the seventh conducted by USA TODAY High School Sports “Best Of” series. More than 100 million voters from all sections of the country involving more than 1,700 schools have participated. No state has produced multiple winners.

The past champions so far are from Missouri, Vermont, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

“No words can explain this. I am humbled beyond imagination, little Bradenton taking on all those national cities, this small village south of Tampa. It’s exciting” Harder said. “It means a lot to the school if got to the national round and got some national recognition. We were 10,000 (votes) down yesterday morning and now we are ahead. It changes every second. I am (this morning) at 73,653. The last day to vote is Monday and you can vote as many times as you want so things change.”

The regional competition included the 51 state winners (Washington, D.C. included) plus two wild cards, who were from New York and Ohio. The biggest vote getter in the state competition was Dave Chuckelford of the Palmer School in Colorado Springs, Colo. Jack Billing from Ohio was second with 62,501 votes.

Anyone who wants to vote can go to USA TODAY High School sports or: http://contest.usatodayhss.com/vote/girls-bball-2014/round-2/region-3

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