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Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Bamberger’

Coupeville High School cross country coach Natasha Bamberger watches her runners compete last season. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The living legend has left the building. For the moment, at least.

Natasha Bamberger, a five-time state champion in running events for Coupeville High School, returned to her alma mater last fall to revive a successful, but long-shuttered, cross country program.

Under her guidance, the Wolves returned to the trails for the first time in two decades, and immediately began to rebuild and impress.

She fielded a full boys team, led by state meet veteran Danny Conlisk, and had a strong one-two combo on the girls side with Catherine Lhamon and Alana Mihill.

With fellow coach Elizabeth Bitting launching a very-strong middle school program at the same time, Coupeville cross country is well on its way to recapturing the glory days it enjoyed when Bamberger won the state cross country title in 1985.

Now, though, her runners will have to go on without her.

Bamberger has resigned as CHS cross country coach, as real-world work issues have reduced her availability to coach.

“This was really hard and a decision I have struggled with,” she said. “It breaks my heart to have to resign coaching cross country this season, but bringing in an income for my family is my reality at this stage of my life.

“I hope my team knows how much I have enjoyed working with them,” Bamberger added. “How much I respect their continued hard work, in becoming a team, a cross country family.”

Having rekindled the fire, she looks forward to seeing future Wolves make a run at the kind of success she enjoyed during her own high school days.

Along with Kyle King, she is one of two Wolves in school history (1900-2019) to win five state titles, and the only one to have all of her championships come in individual events.

Along with her cross country crown, Bamberger ruled the track oval, copping titles in the 1600 in 1984, and the 3200 in ’84, ’85, and ’86.

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   She is legend. Natasha Bamberger, a five-time state champ in her Coupeville High School days, is back to coach Wolf cross country. (Dawnelle Conlisk photos)

   Wolves (clockwise, starting bottom left) Danny Conlisk, Chris Ruck, TJ Rickner and Sam Wynn hang out at Camp Casey before the start of cross country camp.

And the weeds whisper, “Run, Forrest, run.”

“After I run, I like to eat a sandwich this big!”

Alana Mihill (red hoodie) and Catherine Lhamon join their teammates.

Summer is cruising to a close, and fall sports are fast approaching.

Combining the best of both seasons, Coupeville High School cross country runners headed off Sunday to running camp.

The event, held just down the road at Camp Casey, features an appearance by running legend Doris Brown Heritage, who has been inducted three times into a national Hall of Fame.

She won the International Cross Country Championships five years running (1967-1971) and competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

CHS is restarting its cross country program after a two-decade absence, and the camp gives coach Natasha Bamberger and her runners a chance to work alongside long-established programs.

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After a two-decade absence, cross country returns to CHS, led by (l to r) Alana Mihill, Adair De Jesus and Catherine Lhamon. (Susan Hulst photo)

It’s been a long time coming.

Despite being one of the most successful athletic programs in Coupeville High School history, cross country has been wandering in the wilderness for more than two decades.

But that all changes this fall.

When Danny Conlisk went to state last year, he was the first Wolf harrier to make the trip in eight years. But, like Tyler King when he won a state title in 2010, Conlisk trained and traveled with another school.

Jump forward to 2018 and CHS has relaunched an in-school cross country program, and hired the most successful distance runner in school history as coach.

Natasha Bamberger, who still holds school records in the 1600 and 3200, won a state title in cross country for the Wolves in 1985, while adding four more state titles in track.

Now, after success as a coach off Whidbey, she’s back in Coupeville and taking the lead in resurrecting a program which hasn’t fielded a team since the ’90s.

Three Wolves – Henry Wynn, Conlisk, and Sam Wynn – trained and traveled with South Whidbey last season, and while Henry Wynn graduated, the other two return to provide leadership.

Conlisk, a four-time state meet participant (three in track) is a senior, while Sam Wynn is a sophomore.

Joining them are senior Kyle Burnett, junior Chris Ruck and sophomore TJ Rickner, which gets the Wolf boys to the magic mark of five runners.

In Washington state high school cross country, varsity teams usually consist of seven runners, but only the first five across the line score.

Bamberger is still on the hunt for more runners, especially female ones.

Sophomore Catherine Lhamon, who ran in the distance races for CHS track in the spring, has jumped from volleyball to the trail, and she’s been joined by freshmen Alana Mihill and Adair De Jesus.

“This season will be a success … if we get two more girls to come out for the team!!,” Bamberger said.

While her roster is still thin, going from three to eight harriers is a huge step forward for a previously-dormant program.

Coupeville Middle School is also launching its own cross country team, with Elizabeth Bitting coaching, which will help to build numbers for the future.

“We are starting at square one, so no free rides here,” Bamberger said. “We are earning every step out there, getting out as a team everyday, gaining enthusiasm, working hard, developing routines and looking for more runners to join our effort.”

Like other sports, cross country was driven inside by smoke from forest fires in the early days, but the new Wolf coach came away impressed with the attitude of her athletes.

“The team has really bonded in their first week of practice together,” Bamberger said. “They are inclusive and individually articulate, thoughtful, hardworking, funny yet serious student/athletes.

“Having the opportunity to not only run with them, but get the chance to talk with each one of them one-on-one, has been exceptional for me to get to know them as individuals,” she added. “Hear what is important to them and start to hear what their goals are. It’s been great to see them come together.”

Conlisk, who advanced to the Junior Olympics national track and field meet this summer, will be the team leader, while Lhamon and Wynn offer “maturity combined with natural ability.”

Ruck and Rickner are “the happiest runners, the work horses, getting it done, whatever is asked of them, everyday,” while Mihill “shows up for every practice and even pushes the boys. She wants to know about the workouts and plan for her next training day.”

“Everybody brings something to the team,” Bamberger said, going on to praise Burnett for his off-the-trail work ethic.

“It’s impressive watching him helping his teammates in the weight room.”

As she and her runners begin their first season together, Bamberger has set goals for the team, individuals, the program and herself as a coach.

These range from getting the young athletes to “visualize, visualize, visualize – if you see it, it will happen” to having her team “be compassionate and respectful towards their teammates and become a part of Coupeville’s running community.”

Bamberger wants the program to build numbers, embrace parent and alumni participation and be known for its sportsmanship.

Her top runner, Conlisk, has established a reputation for shaking the hands of his rivals before and after each race, and it’s that kind of class the Wolves want to embrace.

Sportsmanship is already on display, as South Whidbey coach Doug Fulton invited the Wolves to join his Falcons at a running camp starting Sunday at Fort Casey.

“This is a great opportunity for our young team to run with an experienced team and learn,” Bamberger said. “We are even getting a visit from Olympian Doris Heritage.

“Camp is a great experience for the team. It’s really a fun time, getting up, running, training, playing games, eating great meals together.

“Camp sets the tone for the season. They will love it and learn a lot in the process.”

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   Natasha Bamberger, a five-time state champ at Coupeville High School in the ’80s, has returned to revive the school’s cross country program. (Photo courtesy Bamberger)

Bamberger with Craig Pedlar, her high school cross country coach, and current Wolf supernova Lindsey Roberts. (Sherry Roberts photo)

She is legend.

Natasha Bamberger isn’t one to toot her own horn, or dwell on her past accomplishments, but I’m here to tell you – there is no bigger name in Coupeville sports history.

The new coach of the CHS cross country team, who is tasked along with CMS harrier coach Elizabeth Bitting to revive a program which has lain largely dormant for two decades, is the real deal.

During her days at Coupeville High School, Bamberger won five state titles, four in track (1600 and 3200 in ’84, 3200 in ’85 and ’86) and became the first Wolf to win a cross country championship when she topped the field in ’85.

Now, after a lifetime of wandering the country, pursuing her passions and raising two highly-accomplished children, she’s back home, ready to inspire the current generation of Wolf runners.

As she prepares for her new job (first day of practice is Aug. 22), Bamberger took time to talk about why running and coaching mean so much to her.

The minute that my life allowed me to be able to coach I did. I always wanted to coach and knew I would.

I volunteered with my local high school cross country team in Vermont.

Within a couple weeks, the Athletic Director gave me the team.

I wanted to coach because literally everything I had accomplished and challenges I faced up to this point in my life — flight school, SERE school, even a war — I attribute to the confidence that running gave me, and especially for the love and time my coaches growing up put into me.

I admired my coaches and wanted to give back what they gave me.

I started out with only eight girls and within three years the team grew to 33.

We were competitive; I was thrilled with their success and we always finished at state in the top four individually as well as the team.

But the biggest gift I was given was a freshman on my team told me and the parents at the banquet dinner at the end of the season was that coach gave her the “love” of running.

I feel this is the most important and a gift to carry you life-long.

As you can imagine, that was quite a moment that I still cherish.

I expected to give to the team from my experience and passion for the sport but they actually inspired me, which I did not expect as a coach.

I am so proud of my runners.

This short four years is so important. I truly believe that they can do anything with the right amount of support.

Many went on to very good colleges and universities, several on cross country scholarships. Two went pro mountain biking.

One met me on the road training and she told me she was going pro Nordic skiing and moving to the Sierra Nevada’s.

She said, “You competed when you were older, Natasha, I can too!”

Through the years, my runners would knock on my door when they came home to go for a run and I felt honored to be invited to their families weddings.

The most amazing thing was these girls inspired me.

I was asked to train with a Eco Challenge team that had competed internationally in Borneo.

I accepted, saying, sure guys, if I can keep up, and it was then I fell in love with ultra running. Especially technical mountain running.

In the next five years I was asked to compete on better and better teams, got sponsored, racing in the Pyrenees, Spain, Newfoundland, Brazil, qualified in Oregon and Western Australia to finish at the World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland in 2004.

I was the only woman on a four-person team.

I always found it interesting that my coaches in Coupeville always had me run with the boys to push me, which sometimes was not always what I wanted to do.

But, as an adult, I raced and worked with them exclusively in my job flying as a part of an aircrew, ultra running and racing.

When I moved back to Coupeville, I was sad to learn we did not have a team.

I wanted to coach and give back to the sport that gave so much to me.

I have great memories and feel so fortunate to have grown up running on these beautiful trails and roads. I want to share that.

I also feel that cross country attracts a great group of kids. It is a family.

Cross country teaches great lessons in life. How to work hard and see it through to a goal. This builds on itself life-long.

There are amazing opportunities for runners to get scholarships and entry to very good universities and colleges.

Looks great on their applications. I feel employers like to see it as well.

Whatever I can do to help launch these kids during these most important years I want to help and be a part of that.

Cross country is not an easy sport. It takes heart and your whole soul.

Seeing my runners work together, grow as people, get after those opportunities running and beyond is very rewarding.

We are going to have a great season.

We are starting small, but I have been there before and will build a strong, fun program for Coupeville.

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   A Central Whidbey Little League softball player fires in a fastball, one of several events I missed by not writing for the past month. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

“I must break you!!”

“I can so hit the sun! Just watch.”

Ringin’ up runs on the board.

So, anything happen while I was gone?

Take a month off to stare into the abyss and when you come back, you find out life pretty much keeps flowing right by in your absence.

A quick look at some of the things I would have been talking about if I had been writing during June:

Cheer:

Coupeville High School assistant coach Amanda Jones resigned.

A promotion at work, and a young daughter at home, greatly reduced her availability.

Football:

CHS hired Marcus Carr as its new head coach.

A resident of Oak Harbor, he went 13-6-1 over the past two years while coaching Concrete.

Carr replaces Jon Atkins, who stepped down after two years. Also departing were assistants Jerry Helm and Brad Sherman.

At the middle school level, Brett Casey has been hired to replace Bob Martin, who stepped down after last season.

Cross Country:

The Wolves are getting back into the harrier biz full-time for the first time in two decades, and have hired Natasha Bamberger (high school) and Elizabeth Bitting (middle school) to coach.

Bamberger was a five-time state champ during her time at CHS, winning four titles in track and claiming top honors in cross country during her senior season in 1985.

Bitting, also a standout runner during her school days (just not in Coupeville), is also the track and field coach at CMS.

Soccer:

A major disaster was avoided as the Central Whidbey Soccer Club, which was down to one (departing) board member, pulled off a last-second miracle.

After months of being unable to find anyone to join its Board of Directors, CWSC hit pay-dirt after a final-ditch plea to the public.

League President Reese Cernick heads up the new seven-member board, and the fall youth season, which would have been cancelled, is back on and begins registration July 1.

Softball:

Six Wolves were tabbed as All-Conference players, with senior pitcher Katrina McGranahan honored as Olympic League MVP.

Baseball:

CHS hurler Hunter Smith was tabbed as league MVP, while also being named as a First-Team All-State player.

Smith and fellow senior Joey Lippo both made the cut for the All-State series, as well, but had to pass when the games conflicted with graduation.

One Central Whidbey Little League team is still playing, with Coupeville’s Babe Ruth squad, coached by Steve Hilborn, taking its 16-0 record to the state tourney July 11-15.

Track:

CHS senior Danny Conlisk is spending the summer running with the Kitsap Fliers, a select squad.

He competed in four events (400, 4 x 1, 4 x 4, 4 x 8) at the state meet, and now moves on to Regionals in Oregon.

Continue his winning ways and Conlisk will be North Carolina-bound for the Junior Olympics national meet.

 

To see more Fisken pics and possibly purchase some glossies for grandma, bounce over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Little-League-baseball-and-softball/2018-06-18-NWLL-vs-CWLL-9-11-Softball-playoff/

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