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Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Bamberger’

Natasha Bamberger, here coaching CHS cross country in 2018, has held school track records for 36 seasons. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Not all CHS track and field records are from the last year or two. Some athletes have stayed on the chart for decades. (Dawnelle Conlisk photo)

They have endured. Some for three decades.

Track and field records are set to be broken, and often are in the very next race.

But a few achievements seem to last forever.

When you look at the Coupeville High School record board which graces the entrance to the CHS gym, it leans towards the athletes of the current generation.

Ten of 35 records were set just last spring, during the 2019 season.

But, somewhat surprisingly, just as many marks on that board come from athletes who haven’t competed in Coupeville in the last 20+ years.

Entering this spring, and the season which may never happen thanks to a pandemic, four school records endure from the 1990’s, while another six have held on from the 80’s.

Going in reverse, it starts with Yashmeen Knox, who soared five feet, two inches in the high jump back in 1999.

Side note – Yaz went on to marry fellow CHS track star Rich Wilson, who set the Wolf boys high jump record of 6-04 in 2000.

While he technically doesn’t fit into this story, as his mark wasn’t from the ’80s or ’90s, his big moment still sits on the board as well, 20 years later.

And hey, how many schools can say that their all-time high jump record holders got married?

I’m willing to bet it’s like … one.

Anyway, step a few years back from there and you meet Allyson Barker, whose performance in the triple jump (35-05.50) has stood as the CHS benchmark since ’95.

Throwers have come and gone, but Jennie Cross has yet to be matched, with both her shot put (36-09) and discus (120-03) records untouched since the ’90 campaign.

And then we head back into really faraway times, with six marks enduring from the days of Ronald Reagan, Pac-Man, and a time when the shorts were short and the socks were long.

You can make an argument for Chad Gale having been the most-dominant male athlete in CHS track history, and the board would back you up.

Reed-thin (but it was all muscle), he rocks a ‘stache in photos from the time, forever daring any modern-day track stars to make a run at his marks.

They never quite get all the way there, however.

Gale still stands as the school record-holder in the long jump (22-08 in ’88), 110 hurdles (14.8 in ’88), and 300 hurdles (39.9 in ’86).

That 1986 season also produced the best 4 x 100 relay team to ever suit up in CHS uniforms, with Bill Carstensen, Tony Killgo, Jay Roberts, and Rick Alexander hitting the tape in 43.9 seconds.

But ultimately, no one has endured at the top of the mountain as long as Natasha Bamberger, the most-decorated female athlete in school history.

A four-time state champ in track, she also earned the crown in cross country during the ’85 season, and is the only Wolf, girl or boy, with five individual state titles.

Kyle King tops the boys side of the ledger, with five track titles in the mid-2000’s, with one of his golds coming as a member of a 4 x 4 relay team.

Bamberger, who later returned to her alma mater to coach cross country, captured her first state titles in 1984, winning in both the 1600 and 3200.

Her marks in those events (5:09.6 and 11:23.7) have endured atop the big board for 36 years, holding out against the best efforts of distance runners from Adrianna Royal to Catherine Lhamon and beyond.

Records are set to be broken, it’s true.

But then there are a few where you say, these marks? They’re gonna live forever.

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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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