MISHAWAKA — After 15 years of track and cross country success at Northridge High School, Josh Fletcher felt an itch for a new challenge.
As fate would have it, Fletcher found an opportunity just 23 miles west at another Indiana high school running powerhouse.
Penn officially announced Fletcher as its new girls cross country and track coach Wednesday, Jan. 15. For Fletcher, it’s the next chapter in a long line of accomplishments.
“I just needed a professional change in both teaching and coaching,” said Fletcher, who graduated from Northridge in 1995 and had been working at the high school since 1998. “There was nothing wrong with Northridge. It was more me. I just needed something else — a challenge. Another institution that I’ll try to maximize their talents. I feel like Penn High School has a lot of girls who are eager to become champions.”
Fletcher admitted it was tough to leave Northridge behind.
A successful runner at Northridge during his school days, he coached the Raiders boys cross country team to a state title in 2004 and the 3200 relay team to a state title in 2005. In cross country, he coached teams to 11 Northern Lakes Conference titles, seven sectional and regional titles and five semistate titles.
In track, he coached teams to three NLC titles, three sectional championships and two regional crowns.
He made the decision to leave after spending several days praying and consulting with friends and family. He called the Northridge track teams in over Christmas break to announce the news.
With Penn and Northridge as frequent track and cross country competitors, he’s anxious for the first time he’ll meet his former team on the field.
“It’s probably going to be more weird for me,” he said. “I’ve invested so much of my time with Northridge and I’m grateful for those opportunities, but I am fully committed to Penn and ready to compete against Northridge.”
Fletcher began work at Penn on Tuesday and said he is so far impressed by the welcoming faculty and staff and the eager athletes.
“I’m overly impressed with the athletes’ willingness and ability to be coachable, to have new ideas come in,” he said. “I’m trying to go slow and implement some of the things that I think are vital for success. Some of the things that I implemented at Northridge will be implemented at Penn.”
He looks forward to tweaking the schedules and utilizing Penn’s indoor training facility. With track season looming, he already set goals with Kingsmen runners to send as many as possible to the state meet in Bloomington.
The Kingsmen cross country team finished sixth in state last year, and Fletcher hopes for the same or better results this fall.
“I’ll always have a spot in my heart for Northridge that will never go away,” he said. “I’ll wish them all the best of luck. They’ll be in my heart. But up in the front of my heart will be Penn.”