By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes cross-country and track program announced Friday, the departure of Keith Butler, a four-year member of the Vikes coaching staff. Butler is returning to Oak Bay High Secondary school and taking on a full-time position as Vice Principal.

Previous to his time with the Vikes, Butler spent 24 years as the cross-country and track head coach at Oak Bay High and led the Bays to 32 B.C. Provincial championship titles.

“Keith has played a strong role in the success of our middle distance program over the past four years,” said Clint Hamilton, Director of Vikes Athletics. “We are certainly sad to see Keith go but are very appreciative for his many contributions to our Vikes program and wish him all the best in his new opportunity.”

In two of his four years with the Vikes, Butler received nods from the Canada West, as he was named the Canada West men’s cross-country coach of the year in both 2010 and 2011. In the 2011 season, Butler coached the men to a bronze-medal finish at the CIS national championship. The team came first in the Canada West for the second consecutive year and two athletes were named CIS All-Canadians (Dylan Haight and Clifford Childs).

“Keith has been with me for four years now and they have been the four most enjoyable years of coaching,” said Brent Fougner, head coach of the Vikes cross-country and track program for the past 24 seasons. “Keith brought the team to a totally different level and we will certainly continue to get the benefits of that as we move forward. Keith’s dedication and organization helped us maintain a quality program 12 months of the year.”

The Vikes cross-country and track program runs six teams, three men and three women, that compete in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track.

Butler has been not only an integral part in coaching the current Vikes athletes but has also helped establish and run the Vikes Running Academy. This program for high school athletes in grade 9-12 offers coaching and training five times a week. The athletes receive coaching from both Butler and Fougner, as well as the current varsity athletes.

“It has been a great opportunity (coaching at UVic) and one that I will definitely miss,” said Butler about his departure. “It was wonderful to see the program thrive as it did over the past four years. I will really miss working with Brent and the athletes, who were extremely supportive ever since I started.”

Butler has also played key roles in varsity fundraising initiatives, as well as high school track meets and events such as the annual Vikes Relays and the Victoria International Track Classic.

Though Butler’s four-year coaching time at the University of Victoria comes to an end, the program is sure to be in safe hands. NCAA 800-m champion and 2005 World Champion 1500-m semifinalist Andrew Ellerton will be stepping up to the plate as the new assistant coach. Ellerton brings a lot of experience to the Vikes program, following his time at the University of Michigan (2002-07) and his current status as a contender for Canada at the London Olympics in the 800-m.

“I’m really excited for this new opportunity to work with the UVic athletes,” said the 28-year old Ellerton. “I’ve been running for a number of years now and have had a lot of great mentors along the way. This will be my chance to share some of what I have learned from them with the Vikes athletes. I know both Keith and Brent very well and that there will be big shoes to fill moving in.”

Ellerton will join the Vikes family along with recent business-major graduate and Vikes President’s Cup winner Alicia Roske. Roske will be on board as the manager, assisting Fougner with administrative tasks and helping co-ordinate programs such as Vikes Relays and the Vikes Running Academy.