HERMISTON - The Hermiston High School cross country squad, which has been a perennial state-qualifier over the past decade, will be under new management this fall.

Jacob Puzey, a member of the team in the late 1990s, will take the reigns as head coach as Brandt Lind steps down.

Lind said his reason for leaving was spending more time with his family, but he's enjoyed the 18 years he's worked with the program.

"My wife has put up with this for so many years, and I've enjoyed it tremendously," he said. "But it's time to head in a different direction. And I don't know what direction that is right now."

It's still uncertain whether Lind will continue to work with the track and field squad in the spring, but he's looking forward to having time to follow his boys' athletic careers.

His sons Kersee and Nathan will both be running next year, but neither at the high school level. Kersee will run track and field for Eastern Washington University and Nathan will be on the eighth grade cross country team.

As far as leaving the successful cross country program behind, Lind says he'll miss the kids the most but he feels the time is right to go.

"You pour everything you've got into it, and you go away knowing you've done that," he said. "But the feeling I have is that it really is the time to move on."

Puzey is excited to take the position, saying it was an ideal situation for him to move in to.

"It's been a good program, and has one of the best records of any extracurricular activity at the high school in terms of placing at state on a regular basis," he said.

The Brigham Young-Hawaii graduate recently ran the Eugene Marathon with hopes of qualifying for the Olympics, but didn't quite come up with the time he was looking for.

He thought about leaving the race without finishing, but the track team was there watching after a meet and he decided he'd better finish.

"I knew I was done and I was looking for my wife to leave, but the whole team was there," he said. "I figured I couldn't just drop out there."

Lind feels Puzey is the ideal candidate for the coaching position, and said it couldn't have worked out any better.

"He's hand picked," the former coach said. "That was the guy we wanted to be in there, and Jake was one of my favorite kids of all time, to be honest with you. There's a lot of things he could have done, but he really wanted to be in Hermiston."


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