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Coupeville High School cross country coach Luke Samford, seen here with Catherine Lhamon, has moved to Kansas. (Helene Lhamon photo)

Add another job opening to the list.

Coupeville High School will need to hire two new head coaches before the fall sports season begins – if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic allows athletics to restart.

Wolf boys soccer coach Kyle Nelson has already stepped down from his position, and now CHS cross country guru Luke Samford is making a similar move.

Samford, who is also an assistant track and field coach, confirmed he has moved to Kansas with wife Hayley.

The decision was based on their jobs, and the cost of living difference between the states.

A former NCAA D-I athlete, Samford coached college runners for seven years before moving to Whidbey Island.

In his one season at the helm of the recently-revived CHS harrier team, he radically increased the number of participants in the program, and helped guide Wolf junior Catherine Lhamon to the state meet.

After much success through the early ’90s, Coupeville shut down its cross country program and it went dormant for two decades.

While a handful of Wolf runners such as Tyler King and Danny Conlisk trained and traveled with other schools over the years, with King winning a state title in 2010, the sport didn’t fully return to the school until 2018.

Natasha Bamberger, who won a state cross country title for CHS in 1985, coached the Wolves in their first season back, then stepped aside to focus on her real-world job.

Now, after Samford’s departure, Lhamon and Co. will have their third head coach in as many years.

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Kyle Nelson is stepping down as CHS boys soccer coach, but will continue to coach the Wolf girls squad. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything is in flux.

When Coupeville High School drops classifications, moving from 1A to 2B starting with the 2020-2021 school year, soccer will be in transition.

At the 1A level, girls soccer plays in the fall, and the boys take the field in the spring.

That’s not true at 2B, however, where all soccer is played in the fall.

With the teams now sharing a season, Kyle Nelson, who previously coached both CHS squads, has decided to step away from the boys program.

He will remain as the Wolf girls coach as the team joins the Northwest 2B/1B League, while the school will hire a new boys head coach.

“We looked at the schedule and we both thought that it just wouldn’t be fair to either program to have him try to coach both at the same time,” said CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith.

There were several dates on the schedule where both the Wolf boys and girls had games, with one squad on the road and one at home.

Add in the crush of running practices for two programs at the same time, and doing a twofer in the same season is a lot to ask of anyone.

Kyle is really excited about the girls program and wants to build it,” Smith said. “Obviously, he was very disappointed in not being able to finish this (boys) season (because of COVID-19), as he was very excited and optimistic about the team this year.

“Both he and I felt that this boys team would have competed at a very high level within the league and could have made some definite headway into the playoffs.”

Nelson started as an assistant coach with the CHS boys program, then moved up to head coach in 2014 after Paul Mendes retired.

He added the girls head coaching job in 2017.

“It’s been amazing having Kyle coach both programs over the past few years,” Smith said. “I couldn’t have asked for a more steady, level-headed, character-driven coach who has a passion for teaching his teams to play the correct way.”

Once he got done blushing, Nelson chimed in, offering his perspective on the change.

“There was just no way to continue to do both with games on different days and different places; there really is no choice but to have two head coaches,” he said. “That meant I had to make the “choice”.

“I have enjoyed my time coaching the boys fully. I originally went into coaching soccer to be involved in the program with my two sons (Loren and William) as they went through high school,” Nelson added.

“I was lucky enough to start by being an assistant with Coach Mendes, who I was able to learn so much from.

“So, at this point nine years later, I feel I have run my course with the boys program and they are ready for a new coach.

“The girls, on the other hand, I have only had three years with.

“I feel like we are just getting started, and I am looking forward to continuing our work.”

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   CHS football coach Jon Atkins has resigned after a two-season run. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

New season, new league, new coach.

Coupeville High School leaves behind the Olympic League this fall, and it will do so with a new coach at the helm of the Wolf football program.

Jon Atkins officially tendered his resignation Monday, bringing an end to his two-year run as head coach.

He compiled a 6-14 record during his two years, and is the only CHS football coach to win back-to-back times against South Whidbey since the two schools started competing for The Bucket.

Atkins is the fourth-straight Wolf gridiron coach to leave after a relatively short stint. He follows in the footsteps of Brett Smedley (one year), Tony Maggio (three) and Jay Silver (two).

Prior to that, Ron Bagby led the program for 26 seasons.

Under Atkins guidance, the Wolves went 3-7 in back-to-back seasons. He started 3-2 this year, before a crippling wave of injuries claimed most of his play-makers.

During his two years, receiver Hunter Smith and quarterback Hunter Downes both set game, season and career records.

Atkins remains a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Oak Harbor, but the grind of balancing two schools and a home life has made life difficult for the coach.

“I have loved the last two years working with the student athletes, parents, and administration,” Atkins said. “However, it has become increasingly difficult teaching at a different school  and coaching at another.

“I have found myself with less time to accomplish the things needed to get done to be a successful head coach.”

Atkins and wife Danielle have young children, and, as they grow, their athletic endeavors are beginning to take more of his time as well.

“I have also chosen to spend more time with my children,” he said. “Both of my children play soccer in the fall and basketball or baseball in the spring and I needed more time to be there from them and watch their games.

“For me, being a father is the most important job I have and both of them would like me to attend more of their functions.”

While he won’t be on the sideline next fall, Atkins will watch from afar, and root for the Wolves.

“I truly wish the CHS program all the luck and success in the years to come.”

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