By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 27, 2018) — Stephenville athletic director Mike Copeland is stepping down as head coach of girls track and field, handing that baton to five-year assistant Jeremiah Butchee.
A proper exchange is something Copeland has spent decades teaching Stephenville athletes, and he is confident this is one hand off that will be taken in full stride. The 2018 season opens Friday and Saturday when Stephenville competes in the Bluebonnet in Brownwood.
“Coach Butchee has been ready for this job, and I have complete confidence in his ability to lead our girls track and field program,” said Copeland, who coached seven individuals to state championships in the sport during his legendary Stephenville career. “Coach Butchee has played a significant role in the success of many young ladies over these past five years and with him in charge I know there will ge many more ladies enjoying those same opportunities to succeed.
Butchee arrived in Stephenville in the spring of 2013, primarily because the Yellow Jacket football program needed a replacement when receivers coach Cliff Watkins left to become offensive coordinator at Midland. That transition proved fruitful for all involved. Watkins is now head football coach and athletic director at nearby Glen Rose, while Butchee succeeds a legend Texas high school athletics as head coach of the Honeybee track and field team.
Butchee works primarily with long jumpers, triple jumpers and sprinters – male and female – and in that role has worked directly with some of the best athletes to pass through the Stephenville athletic program the past five years.
On the girls side, Butchee was here for the senior track season of four-time UIL State Meet qualifier Sheridan Stokes, and has also worked with the likes of Bayleigh Chaviers, a decorated jumper and relay runner in addition to winning two state championships in the 800-meter run, Lariat Larner, and currently Payton Wall and Hailey Martin, already three-time regional qualifiers entering their senior campaign.
As for boys, Preston Brown was a senior when Butchee arrived, and he has also worked with the likes of Josh Nowell, Krece Nowak and Gage Graham.
Butchee’s signature moment as a Stephenville assistant coach may very well have come at the Region I-4A and 5A Track and Field Meet in Lubbock last spring. Kylee Ponder used Butchee’s adjustments to her approach and technique coming out of the blocks to shave not just precious hundredths but sacred tenths of a second off her time in the 100 meter dash, resulting in her qualifying for the state meet and signing to run for her father, coach Pat Ponder, at Tarleton State University.
Copeland says athletes have responded positively to Butchee since his arrival in Stephenville five years ago.
“He is great with the kids and he’s great for the kids,” said Copeland. “If you’re a parent who has kid coming up in our athletic program, you will be blessed when your child has the opportunity to be impacted by Coach Butchee because he is special individual who has a talent for getting the best out of young people.”For Copeland it’s not the end of the race, but simply a transition to a slower lane of traffic.
“Being athletic director, I have enough irons in the fire already. It wouldn’t be fair of me to be less of an athletic director because I’m coaching track, and at the same time it wouldn’t be fair to the girls for me to be less of a coach because I’m busy being athletic director,” said Copeland. “This is the best move for everyone involved, and Coach Butchee is more than ready for the great responsibility of being the head coach for our young ladies.”
Copeland has served as head coach of football, girls basketball, boys and girls track and field, boys and girls golf, boys and girls tennis and, as he recently confirmed, boys and girls power lifting for a brief spell. An assistant coach for five state championship football teams at Stephenville, including four as defensive coordinator, Copeland is a member of the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor, the highest accolade the profession has to offer statewide.