Yelm’s boys and girls track programs introduce new head coaches

Latest hires have ties to Tornados, championship experience


Yelm High School’s newly hired girls and boys head track and field coaches, Shannon Gubser and Richard Houghton, respectively, are already familiar with the Tornados program and its operations. 

Both of the coaches bring their own experiences with Yelm’s track and field program to the table. Gubser previously coached at Yelm for 10 years but left the program in 2005. During her initial coaching tenure, the Tornados girls track and field program picked up a team state championship victory in 2002. 

Like Gubser, Houghton brings championship experience to the table. The new boys head coach was part of Yelm’s staff for the 2023 boys state championship team. He joined the Tornados staff in 2020 after moving to Yelm a year prior. He previously served as a track and field middle school assistant and head coach in Colorado and as assistant track coach in Alaska. He also has 20 years of Nordic ski head-coaching experience. 

Gubser and Houghton each said they have big shoes to fill following the departure of Yelm’s prior head coaches, Dan Baker and Chris Stovall. 

“We only have two-and-a-half returning coaches from last year, plus some senior big talent. But I think we’ve got some incredible potential coming up this year,” Houghton said. “It’s always hard to know what we have until we see those kids out on the track and field, as far as what they’ve done in the off-season. We’ll be working them out, doing some testing, and getting them into the right events. We have an incredible group of coaches coming in this year, so we’re excited.” 

After taking a 19-year coaching hiatus, Gubser returns to the program she participated in for many years.

“I grew up in Yelm and was on the track team here, and then I went to college and was on the track team at WSU,” Gubser said. “As soon as I graduated, I began getting into coaching.” 

In addition to Gubser and Houghton’s new roles, the Tornados boast a “full complement” of seven assistant coaches, including Alex McIntire, distance, Houghton and William Penn, sprints and relays, Ethan Clary, throws, Courtney Hickman, jumps, Gubser, hurdles, Gabe Cadero and Brian Zaglauer, pole vault, with Kylie Mullins and Zaglauer coaching multiple events. 

The two coaches gave rave reviews about the program’s incoming staff. 

“We have some rocking coaches that are coming on, which we think is exciting as well,” Gubser said. “You can clearly tell they care about the kids. It’s exciting because some of the coaching staff we’re getting on, these are people we’re going to be seeing for a long time. They’re not here just for a year to fill a hole, they’re here for the long run.” 

Both of the new coaches believe that through hard work, the Tornado track and field programs can accomplish a lot. Houghton specifically said athletes in the program will work to improve throughout the season. 

“My own personal philosophy is that if we’re focusing on practices and individual performances, the outcomes will come as a result of us putting in the hard work,” Houghton said. “If an athletic team is focused on ‘we’re going to win this, we’re going to win that,’ you’re not focused on the right thing.”

Gubser added, “As coaches, it’s our responsibility to bring the best training we can bring to the table. It’s the kids’ choice to join in and work hard, and the other piece is the relationship aspect. So many of our staff are new to the staff, so we’re building relationships with each other and we’re building relationships with the kids.” 

The coaches highlighted several state qualifiers from the 2023 season to watch during the 2024 season, including the defending 3A state champion in pole vault, Jordan Lasher. Along with Lasher, Latrel Fabian, Tyler Allen, Kiana Neir and Eliana Lewis all return to the program. 

The program’s first home meet is set for Thursday, April 11, at Yelm High School against Peninsula and River Ridge high schools. The second and final home meet of the season will take place on Thursday, April 25, against Gig Harbor and Timberline. 

Yelm’s first meet of the season is slated for Wednesday, March 13, in the Olympia Jamboree. The team’s complete schedule can be found on