Hiring an experienced college coach to take over the Coupeville High School cross country program helped soften the blow of losing last year’s leader Natasha Bamberger.
Luke Samford, a seven-year veteran of coaching collegiate cross country and track, was selected to replace Bamberger.
Bamberger, the most decorated female runner in Coupeville High School history and a highly successful high school coach in Vermont, recently returned to Central Whidbey and helped restart the cross country program last fall after a 20-year hiatus. She reluctantly resigned because the coaching hours conflicted with her work schedule.
Samford coached at three colleges, most recently Kansas Wesleyan University. He and his wife were looking to relocate, and since he grew up in Idaho, they targeted the Pacific Northwest. She was “offered a great position,” Samford said, so the couple moved to Washington.
By fate, the Coupeville job opened at the time of their move. Samford hopes to eventually get a teaching job in the area as well.
Samford played soccer and track at St. Maries High school in Idaho. While there, he was selected to play on an international soccer team in 2004 and was a state medalist in the 800 and 1,600 meters in track. After high school, he went on to play soccer for Southwestern Oregon Community College before transferring to the University of Idaho, where he ran the 800 meters in track.
As a college coach, he developed athletes that were “national qualifiers in the javelin, marathon and everywhere in between.”
Samford’s goal for the Coupeville program is “to enhance the overall experience for the athletes.”
“I hope they come away saying that running cross country made high school better, and I hope they learn as many life lessons as they can,” he added.
Samford said the primary element in building the young Coupeville cross country program is to make it “a fun team to be part of.”
“Hopefully the current athletes can encourage friends to come out and try,” he said. “I’m very excited to get started.”
Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith said, “We are very excited and feel very fortunate that a candidate with his credentials, experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport was available to us, and we feel like our program is going to grow by leaps and bounds with him at the helm.”