Jeff Hester did a statewide search for the next leaders of the Columbus North cross-country programs, but it turned out his top candidates were already on the staff.

Thursday night, Hester promoted assistants Danny Fisher and Bethany Scruton to head the Bull Dog boys and girls programs. They will replace Rick Weinheimer, who has been the boys coach the past 38 years and the girls coach the past 35.

“I was looking for two leaders that would be effective for both programs,” said Hester, the North athletics director. “Even though I stayed in-house, I interviewed multiple candidates throughout the state. But I didn’t have to look far for what I was looking for.”

A 2007 North graduate, Scruton ran for Weinheimer for four years. She was part of state-qualifying teams her first two years of high school, finishing 15th individually as a sophomore, then qualified as an individual and earned her second All-State honor as a junior.

Scruton went on to compete in cross-country and track at Indiana State, where she was cross-country captain her senior year and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in special education/elementary education. She teaches special education at North.

“It’s just fun to be back at your alma mater,” Scruton said. “I’ve been back coaching with coach Weinheimer from the past six years, and it’s fun to learn from him both as a runner and as a coach and take that from him to use it on my own now.”

Scruton also was a state qualifier in track all four years, the first two as part of the Bull Dogs’ 4×800-meter relay team and the last two in the 3,200. She has been an assistant track coach at North for the past five years, mainly coaching 400-meter runners.

Scruton’s goal for the cross-country program is for the transition to be smooth. She said she has similar philosophies as Weinheimer and plans to continue the same program.

“Bethany knows Columbus North running extremely well,” Hester said. “Her experience running for Rick and in track, as well, set her apart. I really like her approach to coaching, her passion, and I really appreciate the vision that she has for the girls program.”

Fisher graduated from Brown County in 2001. He was a two-time state qualifier in cross-country and a two-time state qualifier in track, making in the 3,200 as a sophomore and in the 4×800 realy as a senior.

Fisher went on to run at and graduate from University of Southern Indiana. He was All-Conference in cross-country his freshman year.

“It’s a big opportunity for both Bethany and I to follow up on coach Weinheimer and coach (Jan Matchette) with that they’ve done the past three or four decades,” Fisher said. “It’s come full circle now. I grew up running and have been coaching the past four years, and now, we get to put pen to paper, so to speak, or rubber to road.”

Fisher began his coaching career in 2009 when he founded Progressive Performance Endurance LLC. He has been a personal trainer and endurance coach at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club since 2011.

An assistant cross-country coach with the Bull Dogs from 2012-14 and this past season, Fisher also has been an endurance coach for Brookline, Massachusetts-based Runnersconnect, Inc. since 2014.

“Danny has a real down-to-earth approach to coaching,” Hester said. “Not only has he been an accomplished runner himself, he can convey his approach to those he coaches and trains effectively.”

Fisher is perhaps best known for winning the inaugural Mill Race Marathon in 2013. He also has won the Louisville Marathons and competes in duathlons and even the occasional triathlon.

Like Scruton indicated with the girls program, Fisher doesn’t plan to change a whole lot on the boys side.

“I think the method and the theory is all the same for the most part,” Fisher said. “I learned a lot from coach Weinheimer and also from coach (Mike) Hilliard at USI. I definitely want to keep the bar just as high as it has been. I want to keep the tradition that coach Weinheimer and coach Match have set and keep developing the kids.”

Weinheimer, who led North to five boys state championships and one girls state title, announced his retirement in January.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.