Several notable changes are on the horizon for Laramie High School sports with recent decisions after the 2017-18 academic year.
Soccer coaches Dan Benford for the Plainsmen and Kim Whisenant for the Lady Plainsmen resigned and Activities Director/Assistant Principal Jeremy Qualls accepted the position as principal at Rock River School.
Benford moved to Cheyenne after recently becoming engaged.
Benford coached Plainsmen soccer for three years. He took over in December of 2015 for Andy Pannell, who coached the Plainsmen for 15 years.
“I just want to thank the Laramie community — especially the soccer community — for accepting me three years ago,” Benford said. “It was such a great time and I enjoyed the chance to coach those boys.
“I am engaged and there will be a wedding in the relatively near future.”
In the spring of 2016, Benford guided the Plainsmen to a Class 4A state championship and a 15-4-0 overall record. The Plainsmen beat Riverton 1-0 in the title game.
In 2017, the Plainsmen were 13-5-1 and lost 2-1 to Casper Natrona in the consolation final at the state tournament.
Last season, the LHS boys were 10-8-2 overall and finished fourth at state with a 3-0 loss to Green River in the third-place game.
“It was so enjoyable, and I cherished the time of getting back in coaching after leaving it for a few years when I first moved to Wyoming,” Benford said.
“I just couldn’t have asked for a better team of boys and have so many great memories of them.”
Benford accepted a teaching position at Triumph High School in Cheyenne. He has no coaching plans in the foreseeable future.
“You never say never,” Benford said. “But right now I’m taking a break to focus on family and to just slow down to enjoy that part of life and give it everything it deserves.”
Added Qualls: “(Dan) was extremely organized and did a great job of game prep. For a guy that doesn’t know a whole lot about soccer — that’s me, not him — I was able to see what he was trying to do defensively, which was really impressive.”
Whisenant started coaching the Lady Plainsmen in 2012. Her teams advanced to the state tournament and never finished lower than third place all seven years during her tenure at LHS.
The Lady Plainsmen were third at state from 2012-15.
The LHS girls then won their fourth state title in program history in 2016 by beating Campbell County 4-2 in the championship game and finish 15-3-1 overall.
In 2017, the Lady Plainsmen were runner-up to Campbell County at state in 2017 after a 4-1 loss in the title game to finish 13-6-0.
The Lady Plainsmen placed third at state last season by beating Campbell County 2-1 in overtime for an 11-7-1 record.
Efforts by the Laramie Boomerang to contact Whisenant on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Qualls became the activities director/assistant principal in August of 2017. He came to Laramie after being principal at Pinedale High School.
“It was fantastic,” Qualls said about his time at LHS. “The opportunity to see these kids succeed, and they way they did, they had accomplishments at the highest level for all sports. I also got to know some great coaches and fantastic people. It was a joy to be here for the year.”
Qualls, who plans to live in Laramie, said several factors went into his decision to go to Rock River.
“The opportunity to be responsible for a young person’s education from the time they enter at kindergarten to the time they leave at 12th grade is pretty cool,” Qualls said. “There are not too many schools you can do that, and Rock River affords that opportunity for an administrator.
“I also like the idea of getting back to how I started coming from a small 1A school as a teacher and coach — strangely enough it was at Raft River (in Idaho) with blue and white colors. So, getting back to that climate was something that appealed to me.”
Qualls said he will give the new activities director the discretion to make the next soccer hires for LHS.