Flint out, Dutro in at Fort Lewis

FLC cross country coaching change precipitated by downsizing

Fort Lewis College men’s and women’s cross country head coach Ken Flint is out after 12 years at the helm, and the Skyhawks went to a familiar face to replace him.

Mark Dutro, the 10-year head coach of Durango High School’s cross country and track and field teams, will make the move up the hill to take the reins as the Skyhawks’ head coach, his first college cross country job since running the program at Division III Cornell College in Iowa from 1996-2000. He was the track and field coach at the school from 1993-2000.

Dutro has a physical education degree from Kansas State and a master’s degree in the same field from the University of Iowa.

Before Durango High School, he also was the head cross country coach at Mount Vernon Community Schools in Iowa from 1993-96 and coached both cross country and track at Iowa City West High School from 1991-93.

Fort Lewis athletic director Gary Hunter said Dutro’s previous college experience and his ties to the school were key factors in why he was approached.

Dutro has been an instructor in FLC’s exercise science department since 2002 and has an office inside Whalen Gymnasium.

“I always thought it would be nice to get back to the college ranks someday, and the situation presented itself. ... It’s the right time to take that step,” Dutro said in a phone interview Monday.

Flint’s departure comes in large part because of downsizing in the athletic department. Flint also had served as the department’s business manager since 2007, and that position was eliminated in a cost-cutting measure. The position will be replaced with a more general office manager position, Hunter said.

“We need someone in the office to help ... with all 12 sports, but we felt we could get some business management research and stuff from the college itself, and we could save a significant amount in salary savings,” Hunter said in a phone interview.

Flint said he was notified of the decision to cut his full-time position June 8. Flint had hoped to stay on as cross country coach, a part-time position, but Hunter said it was in the best interests of the program to make a clean break given the hours Flint’s potential next job could require.

“Most employers ... would expect a full-time employee to work basically 8 to 5, and I was concerned, and I talked with Ken about it. We’d have to practice after hours ... and I didn’t think that was fair to our student-athletes,” Hunter said.

Flint admittedly was disappointed with the decision in regards to both positions, adding that he was looking forward to working with a sizeable recruiting class set to hit campus this fall – some of whom he said emailed him with support and questions as to what happened.

“I was very excited for this season. We brought in 27 new athletes to the team that weren’t on the roster this past fall,” he said. “With returners and all the new people, the team was poised to have its best season ever.

“I look at them as two separate positions, and one does not affect the other, but in the eyes of the athletic department, it does,” Flint said.

As for Dutro, he becomes the third Durango High School head coach to move on this year. Girls basketball coach Klint Chandler resigned in December, while longtime boys and girls tennis coach Dave Weisfeldt resigned to pursue other professional opportunities in May.

Dutro said he doesn’t plan on staying at the helm of the DHS track and field teams, adding that he’s tried that in the past with mixed results. He’s said he’s hoping to pick up where Flint left off and possibly close the gap on national powerhouses Adams State and Western State, and Hunter said in a news release that current scholarships and those offered to incoming runners will be honored.

“There’s some talent there at this level, and I think I’m going to enjoy a difference, a change. But at the same time, it’s going to be as challenging as any position I’ve ever had,” Dutro said.

rowens@durangoherald.com