Renewed interest in the sport and the support of the school district spurred the return of the cross country program at Coupeville middle and high schools this fall.
Cross country was eliminated about 20 years ago because of a lack of interest and financial reasons.
Much of the credit for the rebirth goes to Coupeville’s Henry Wynn, who graduated last spring, and rising senior Danny Conlisk.
Two years ago the pair decided they wanted to run cross country and trained and competed with South Whidbey High School. Last fall, Wynn’s younger brother, Sam, joined the group.
Seeing that commitment, Coupeville athletic director Willie Smith ran a survey in the spring of 2017 to gauge overall interest.
“We had quite a bit of interest at the middle school level and enough high school interest to warrant looking at the cost/feasibility of starting a program back up,” Smith said.
Last winter, Smith held a meeting to “see visible bodies to determine if there was viable interest or if kids were just marking yes on a survey.”
Once again, middle school students displayed a strong interest, and about 10 high school students responded.
After Smith met with High School Principal Duane Baumann and Middle School Principal Geoff Kappes, they decided to start only a middle school program and then add the high school team once those students moved up.
In the spring, Baumann, however, suggested they begin the high school team as well. He felt that once students knew the team was officially starting up, more would take part.
This proposal was taken to then Superintendent Jim Shank, who agreed to move forward with both programs, Smith said.
Natasha Bamberger, a former Coupeville state champion, and Elizabeth Biting were selected as coaches.
“Hiring Natasha at the high school level was a coup and makes a great connection with our program from the past,” Smith said. “Elizabeth Bitting, who has been our head middle school track coach the past two years, was also a no-brainer as it brought familiarity to our middle school students.
“Both of them are very knowledgeable, hands on and extremely energetic coaches who will, I believe, lead a resurgence of runners and solidify our program for years to come.”