Posts Tagged ‘cross country’

Amber Wyman congratulates daughter Ayden. (Morgan White photo)

“My heart is happy!!! She is the perfect match for the team!!!”

You can count Elizabeth Bitting as Amber Wyman’s biggest fan, as the latter follows in the former’s footsteps as Coupeville Middle School cross country coach.

The position came open recently, when Bitting bounced up to run the high school harrier program, and Wyman’s hire will be official once approved by the school board at this Thursday’s meeting.

The mother of three Wolf athletes — Tate, Ayden, and Devon — she returns the compliments to Coupeville’s running guru.

“I will be working closely with Coach Bitting, because anyone who knows and has worked with her knows what a fantastic coach she is!” Wyman said.

“I’m not sure I would have taken this job had she not been here to show me such a great example; she is definitely my inspiration!”

As she takes over the job, Wyman is excited to give young athletes an opportunity she herself never had.

“I was never a student-athlete,” she said. “I was that reluctant student that never had the benefit of playing sports.

“I wanted to try out for volleyball in high school, but I let my fears and insecurities keep me from playing or trying out for anything. That is one of my biggest regrets!”

Wyman did become an athlete herself, but later in life.

Two months after giving birth to her middle child in 2007, she found herself being both a supporter and an active participant in getting ready for a triathlon.

“My friend Holley visited and said that she had decided to train for a triathlon. I just immediately said, “I’ll join you!” even if she didn’t ask,” Wyman said with a laugh.

She made her debut in the Whidbey Island Triathlon, which was memorable for many reasons.

“I came in almost last and had to step across the finish line and immediately breast feed Ayden, who had refused the bottle from my husband the entire time.”

From that beginning has come appearances in multiple sprint triathlons, 5K, 10K, and 15K races, and “the one and only, memorable half marathon in Napa.”

“So, while it came late for me, I have been out there!” Wyman said.

The coaching bug bit when her children first became soccer players, with things taking a big jump forward when Coupeville schools revived their cross country programs in 2018.

“My husband was excited that someone was doing ‘his’ sport, and Coach Bitting coached Tate,” Wyman said. “It was a fantastic season.

“That year I started helping in whatever way I could, which gradually increased until I was out there at most practices and meets.”

Elizabeth Bitting and Wyman enjoy a day at the races. (Photo courtesy Bitting)

While she may have thought of herself as just a helpful parent at first, it soon became apparent that Wyman and Bitting made a great team.

“The first time I realized I was the ‘assistant’ coach was when I was in the stands as a parent listening to Coach Bitting give the preseason talk. She announced me as her assistant coach!

“I had no idea that was coming, but in reality, I had been playing that role all along: I was helping students with stretches, making sure they were on the right course, helping with uniforms, making sure they were doing what they were supposed to, or really whatever coach asked me to do, and I was at nearly all the meets.”

“I have been learning from Coach Bitting this entire time, and I know I have big shoes to fill!”

When Bitting accepted the high school gig, replacing Paige Spangler, who moved out of state after two years on the job, she actively stumped for her assistant to replace her.

“I applied for the job because of Coach Bitting and Kristin Wagner,” Wyman said. “Coach right away was on it and told me to apply, plus sent multiple texts and mentioned it anytime I talked to her in person.

“Then, Kristin started calling me coach whenever I saw her, so nearly daily!” she added “So really, the support, or arm-twisting, of friends got me here!”

Wyman and her husband, Andrew, who will celebrate their 27th anniversary this year, arrived on Whidbey in 2002.

He launched his dental practice in Oak Harbor, and she has worked as a teacher, first at the fourth-grade level and in recent years as a long-term substitute at Coupeville Elementary School.

That time in the classroom gives Wyman prior knowledge of many of the boys and girls who will run for her next fall, a true positive.

“I know many of these students and parents,” she said. “I have to admit that I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight, but I like feeling helpful.

“I’m hoping I can create a positive atmosphere for the students so that they will give me all they’ve got and understand that while it wasn’t always easy, it was worth it.”

Like Bitting, Wyman is intent on making cross country life a positive one for their runners, whether they’re seasoned athletes or first-timers.

“I want to make this a fun experience for the students, so they want to return or continue into high school,” Wyman said.

“I especially would like to get those reluctant athletes, those who are like me, to get out there and give it a try!” she added. “I want students to realize that although it can be challenging and you will have good and bad days, that’s OK.”

Running offers a unique experience, something Wyman embraces.

“From my years of watching on the sidelines and being in the supporting role while my husband ran in high school and at UW, I have learned that while the students run individually, they are a family,” she said.

“I love that! The running community is an amazing group who are always there to support!”

At its heart, cross country is a fairly simple sport, with no plays to learn, which makes it ideal for athletes of all skill levels and experience.

“I want my student-athletes to have fun, build a strong team, and have enthusiasm for the sport, whether they continue with it or use it as a steppingstone to keep in shape for another sport,” Wyman said.

“One of the best things about running is that it is always available and requires no special equipment!”

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Luke Samford poses with the 2019 CHS girls’ cross country team. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

He’s back in the college ranks.

Former Coupeville High School cross country coach Luke Samford has been tabbed as the new Assistant Athletic Director for Bethany College in Kansas.

An NCAA D-1 athlete himself, he coached college athletes for seven seasons before taking over the Wolf harrier program.

In his one season at the helm, Samford helped build a recently revived Coupeville cross country program, with Catherine Lhamon advancing to the state meet.

After also working as an assistant track and field coach at CHS, he and wife Hayley left Whidbey in mid-2020 to pursue career opportunities in Kansas.

After departing Coupeville, Samford worked as a high school pole vault coach and held a position in the Student Success Center at Bethany College.

The NAIA school, located in Lindsborg, Kansas, fields 20+ athletic teams.

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CHS cross country runners (l to r) Preston Howard, Carson Field, Landon Roberts, and Thomas Strelow celebrate the season. (Sherry Bonacci photo)

It was a season full of big moments.

The Coupeville High School cross country program won boys and girls league titles this fall, while sending eight runners — including its entire girls’ team — to the state meet.

Senior Mitchell Hall beat the field to win an individual league title, as well, while the Wolf girls earned an academic state title for having the highest team GPA among all 2B schools.

All of that and more was celebrated Thursday, as CHS coach Paige Spangler and her team capped awards season with the final banquet on the fall schedule.

Claire Mayne burns up the trail. (Jackie Saia photo)





Mitchell Hall
Helen Strelow


4-Year Participation:

Mitchell Hall
Cristina McGrath
Helen Strelow
Tate Wyman


Most Improved:

Zeke Allen
Erica McGrath


Hardest Worker:

Claire Mayne


Best Teammate:

Claire Mayne
Helen Strelow


Cross Country Clown:

Carson Field
Landon Roberts


Varsity letter winners:

Reagan Callahan
Carson Field
Easton Green
Mitchell Hall
Preston Howard
Claire Mayne
Cristina McGrath
Erica McGrath
Landon Roberts
George Spear
Helen Strelow
Thomas Strelow
Noelle Western
Tate Wyman


Participation certificates:

Zeke Allen
Nic Wasik

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Elizabeth Bitting (left) replaces the departing Paige Spangler (right) as Coupeville High School cross country coach.

Same trails, new boss.

Well, except the new boss is also the old boss.

Coupeville Middle School cross country guru Elizabeth Bitting, who coached the Wolf high school team in 2020, is returning to reclaim the position, but this time for good.

Bitting replaces Paige Spangler, who exits after two seasons at the helm of the CHS program.

The reason for the departure?

Spangler is moving to the East Coast after her husband, who’s in the military, recently received new orders.

Bitting has been the heart and soul of Coupeville’s running programs since they were relaunched in 2018 after a two-decade absence, building the middle school program into a huge success.

CMS boasted 30+ runners this fall, an extraordinary number for a school of its size.

A huge part of that is Bitting, who infuses her students with joy, regardless of whether they are hardcore runners or first-time athletes.

While she has piloted the middle school program the past five seasons, the high school harriers have had four different coaches.

Natasha Bamberger and Luke Samford each did a season before being pulled away by real-world jobs, Bitting agreed to coach both programs for a season, then Spangler joined her on the trails.

This time, Bitting is making the jump to the high school job for good, and the middle school coaching position will be posted.

“I am truly excited about the move. It is time,” Bitting said. “There’ll be no stepping down this time! I have plans! Lots of plans!”

A lifelong runner herself, Bitting was a team captain on a state title-winning harrier team at Mt. San Antonio College.

She also helped launch Dash for the Bash (later renamed Race the Reserve), which raises money for each year’s senior class at Coupeville High School.

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Noelle Western made it to the state cross country meet as a mere freshman. (Kerry Western photo)

They were too fast for the storm.

Eight Coupeville High School cross country runners departed Whidbey Island long before the power went off, and stayed off, at home.

Then, while most people back home stared into the unrelenting, inky darkness, the Wolves hit the course at Saturday’s 2B/1B state meet in Pasco.

Having sent a full team to the big dance for the first time since the ’80s, Coupeville unleashed six girls and two boys on the Sun Willows Golf Course.

Senior Mitchell Hall was the first Wolf to hit the tape, finishing 19th in the boys’ race, while the CHS girls claimed 8th in the team standings.

That’s the third top 10 finish for the program, coming on the heels of 4th in 1982 and 8th in 1981.

None of Saturday’s runners were even close to being alive during the age of Madonna, but they acquitted themselves nicely in Paige Spangler’s final moments as Coupeville’s harrier coach.

The trail guru, who coached two seasons at CHS, heads east after this, with her military husband having received new orders.

Before she left, Spangler also got to witness her girls team receive an academic state championship, with the Wolves having the highest GPA of any 2B team.

Coupeville’s girls, fast and smart. (Nicole Strelow photo)

Four of Coupeville’s eight runners at state depart as well, with Helen Strelow, Cristina McGrath, Hall, and Claire Mayne all seniors.

Noelle Western, Erica McGrath, Carson Field, and Reagan Callahan are all underclassmen.

Pope John Paul II and Chewelah claimed the girls and boys team titles, respectively, at Saturday’s championships, with PJP-II edging Garfield-Palouse by a single point.

Josie McLaughlin of St. George’s and Ciaran St. Hilaire of Tri-Cities Prep won individual crowns.


Saturday results:


Claire Mayne (42nd) 24:05.30
Helen Strelow (49th) 24:28.20
Cristina McGrath (63rd) 25:57.70
Reagan Callahan (72nd) 28:20.60
Erica McGrath (73rd) 28:21.80



Mitchell Hall (19th) 17:58.80
Carson Field (74th) 19:27.90

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