KEARNEY — Five new head coaches will lead Kearney High School athletic programs this upcoming school year, with a plethora of experience and some familiarity.
Pete Smart will return to the sidelines to coach the Kearney volleyball team, while Geoff Hutton was approved this week to take over the girls track squad. Zach Boswell is set to shift from the girls track and field post to the head role of the girls golf team, and Dillon Starzl was elevated to the head boys golf position. Additionally, Kearney graduate Kaitlyn LaFrenz was hired as the girls tennis head coach.
“You’re fortunate when you get people from within the community and have been a part of the program before like Kaitlyn LaFrenz coming back to coach,” Kearney Activities Director David Schwarzenbach said. “We also have a couple assistants that are coming back to Kearney.”
Smart is back in charge of the Bulldogs volleyball squad after leading Kearney to four league titles and a district championship from 2004 to 2012. He’s replacing Meghan Laws, who resigned after eight seasons.
“I really enjoyed coaching at the high school level,” said Smart, who retired from his teaching position in 2018. “I like coaching club also, but there’s something a little different at the high school level. Coaching for your school team is pretty special. I’ve missed it here for the last couple years.”
In addition to his high school experience, Smart has spent 15 years as a club coach. Smart was an All-American player in his playing days, as he helped Graceland College (now Graceland University) to an NAIA championship.
“Since he was working part-time in the district anyway I let him know about the opening,” Schwarzenbach said. “And at the time he was working with Rockhurst University doing some (volunteer) work, so I think he was focused in that area. So he thought about it and then came back and let me know that he was interested.
“Anytime you can get somebody with that much experience in volleyball, especially at the high school and club level, it’s a great opportunity for our kids.”
Boswell, the former girls track and field coach and an assistant for numerous KHS teams, will hit the links to lead the girls golf squad.
“I am extremely excited to take over as the new girls head golf coach,” Boswell said in a press release. “Golf is something I have enjoyed playing for 25 years of my life. I am looking forward to leading the ladies golf program here at Kearney (and) into the future. Golf is a game that can give so much back to the player, and I am fortunate and grateful to be a part of the program.”
Boswell has been involved with Kearney School District athletics since 2006 when he started as a junior high boys basketball coach. Since then, he’s contributed as an assistant to the high school girls basketball program for seven years and the girls and boys track and field team for 11 years.
Boswell and Starzl are replacing Tim Marshall, who recently resigned as boys and girls golf coach after spending 13 years coaching multiple Kearney sports.
Starzl received a promotion after previously serving as an assistant golf coach.
Schwarzenbach stressed the importance of internal promotion.
“We were fortunate to have experience already on staff,” said Schwarzenbach, who just completed his first month on the job after serving as principal for seven years. “The former AD, Eric Marshall, put a lot of work on it, too, and developed those relationships and helping me with the process.”
With 30 years of track and field coaching experience, Hutton was a natural fit for the girls track and field position. His hiring was approved at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We were fortunate enough to get retired head coaches and a guy that has over 30 years of experience, you can’t have a better situation for our kids,” Schwarzenbach said of Hutton, who coached at Kirksville for 20 years and Brashear High School, near Kirksville, for 11 years.
Hutton has spent recent years as an assistant for the track and field and football programs.
LaFrenz is taking the helm of the program she once played in.
A 2014 graduate, LaFrenz was hired last year as an assistant for KHS tennis. One year later, she’s replacing Jessica Payne as head coach.