Students, parents show support for dismissed WHS coach |

Students, parents show support for dismissed WHS coach

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

A former Whittell High track/cross country coach’s past athletes and their parents aren’t letting his firing go away quietly.

Whittell High students showed support for former coach Brian Rippet during the public comment session of the Douglas County School District Board meeting Tuesday evening. One student was even brought to tears as he explained how Rippet has touched his life.

Rippet, a four-year coach at the school, was fired by the Whittell administration for unspecified reasons last month. The 33-year-old, however, will continue to teach science at Whittell.

The coach of the 2002 girls’ state cross country champions declined to comment on the specifics of his dismissal and administrators refuse to discuss the firing since it is a personnel matter.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, 10 of Rippet’s former athletes made verbal and visual presentations to the board. In addition to emotionally explaining how Rippet has impacted their lives, they presented statistical information revealing how the program has substantially grown under his direction.

“Whatever the reason was the good outweighs the bad,” said junior Michael Komorowski. “He’s changed the lives of all the people he’s come in contact with in a posiitive way.”

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Lorin Kline, who has participated on Rippet’s track and cross country teams, spoke and wrote in behalf of her former coach.

“If George Whittell High School loses Mr. Rippet as a coach, the running program will never be the same again,” Kline wrote. “Mr. Rippet has raised the bar so high that no one will be able to reach that height again.”

Since Rippet took over both programs in 1999, participants on the boys’ cross country team have quadrupled, while his girls team has gone from fielding an incomplete squad to nine members.

Participation on his track teams has also increased dramatically, rising from 19 boys in 2000 to 33 last year and five girls in 2000 to 12 girls a year ago.

The students also presented letters of support from parents and former athletes.

“To prevent Mr. Rippet from coaching would be a tremendous loss to each student that is a current member or future member of his teams,” wrote Steven L. Kline. “The self-esteem, pride and appreciation of teamwork that Mr. Rippet instills are lifelong, priceless treasures that only good coaches have the key to unlock. I urge the Douglas County School Board to keep that key in the hands of Brian Rippet.”

Karen Beebe-Saunders and Stephen J. Saunders wrote, “The decision of Whittell High to dismiss coach Brian Rippet from coaching our track and cross country teams are, in our opinion, a grave injustice, not only to him and our students who he has been such an inspiration to, but to us parents who have seen the extra mile he has gone for our kids.”

Ben Johnson, a Santa Clara University freshman who participated on Rippet’s cross country and track teams, credits his former coach for best preparing him for the future.

“In a time when I was so malleable and wanted desperately to find myself in a confusing world, I found Mr. Rippet. He became a coach, teacher and role model for me; he forever changed who I am as a person. Every decision I make or action I take is guided by the morals and values developed during my time spent with Mr. Rippet.”

Rippet didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting and was unaware that his supporters were going before the board.

“It has been really encouraging when parents have told me the positive influence I’ve had on their kids,” Rippet said.

Besides the girls’ state cross country title this past year, Rippet’s boys’ team was second in the state meet. Both teams also won Nevada 2A regional titles this past year. Two years ago, his boys’ team finished third at the state track meet.

Jeremy Smith, who coached the Whittell girls’ track team last year, will oversee the entire track program this spring, according to athletic director Brian Mehrer.

The school hasn’t found a cross country coach for next season.

— Maggie O’Neill of the Record Courier also contributed to this story.