Jeff Hester announced his resignation as athletic director at Columbus North High School on Monday (May 18) after a 12-year span in which the Bull Dogs captured eight team state championships, claimed 85 team titles in Conference Indiana sports and won 17 CI all-sports trophies (six boys and 11 girls).
In addition, CNHS teams seized 122 sectional trophies, 73 regional crowns and 25 semi-state championships during Hester's tenure with the Bull Dogs that began in July 2008. The eight state championships during his time pushed the Columbus High/Columbus North total to 37 titles, a figure which stands fourth on the Indiana High School Athletic Association's list of most state titles by a school.
Hester departs Columbus North in order to become the assistant athletic director at Carmel High School, the state's winningest athletic program with 154 IHSAA state championships. The Greyhounds have claimed state crowns in 17 sports, including a state-record 35 titles in girls swimming. In addition, Carmel recently was named the winner of the 2019-20 MaxPreps Cup as the No. 1 high school sports program in the nation.
Hester will complete his duties through June at Columbus North and begin his position at Carmel on July 1.
“I love Columbus and forever will be grateful for the opportunity I was given to lead the athletic department at Columbus North,” Hester said. “I am fortunate to have been able to surround myself with remarkable people who shared the same philosophy of education-based athletics that I hold.”
In addition to the girls swimming trophies, Carmel also has 20 state crowns in boys swimming, 18 in girls cross country, 16 in boys cross country, 12 in boys tennis, 10 in girls tennis, 10 in girls soccer, nine in football, seven in boys golf, four in boys basketball, four in boys track, two in girls track, two in girls golf, two in softball and one each in girls basketball, boys soccer and girls volleyball.
Hester succeeds Bruce Wolf, who has been a teacher, coach and administrator at Carmel for the past 40 years, including the past 25 years as the Greyhounds’ assistant athletic director. Hester will work with Jim Inskeep, who is completing his 20th year as athletic director at the Hamilton County school.
Columbus North principal David Clark expressed mixed emotions about Hester’s departure.
“I’m sad and I’m happy,” Clark said. “It’s a two-edged sword. I’m happy for Jeff and the career opportunity he has. However, I also am sad for our school and our program in that he is an outstanding athletic administrator and will be missed.
“He has helped lead our athletic program to many successes, but this goes beyond the wins and losses. The way he has put student-athletes first, it has been superior. He always has had a vision of what something needed to be or what something needed to look like. He always was working on new ways to market us or brand our program. His vision was outstanding. It will be very difficult to fill the open position.”
While at Columbus North, Hester oversaw a program that captured state championships in boys’ cross country (three), girls’ cross country (one), boys’ soccer (one), boys’ golf (one), girls’ basketball (one) and gymnastics (one). In addition, Columbus North athletes captured 13 individual state championships, won 235 individual Conference Indiana individual titles and were awarded an IHSAA Mental Attitude Award on 11 occasions during Hester's time in charge.
During his tenure, Hester has overseen construction of new baseball and softball facilities, the creation of a cross country course at CeraLand Park as well as significant renovations of Memorial Gym, the Auxiliary Gym, Max Andress Field and to the football and track stadium. He also arranged for a new scoreboard in the Charles "Chick" Newell Natatorium, led efforts to brand Columbus North athletics, created the school’s Student Athletic Board, created the school's Champions Together program and has been part of the planning for the new school-owned BCSC Soccer Complex that should be ready for play this fall.
Hester worked with the Bull Dog Booster Club to coordinate annual events such as Blue & White Night, Physical Night and an annual fund-raising auction that transitioned to the annual “Bull Dog Bites” fund raiser. He also brought several special events to Columbus North, including Indiana All-Star Junior-Senior basketball exhibitions in 2014 and 2015, a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game in 2015, an appearance by then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for the “Change The Play” program in 2018 and the "I'm Possible" Basketball Camp for multiple summers.
Hester twice has received professional awards while at Columbus North. He was named a District 3 Administrator of the Year in 2015 by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association and the District 4 Athletic Director of the Year in 2016 by the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
“The athletic success that was achieved always will be memorable, but the relationships I have been able to build with athletes, coaches and community members is what I enjoyed most,” Hester said. “Only time will tell of the impact I had, but I hope it is one that is looked upon in a positive light.”
Columbus North coaches Tim Bless and Rick Sluder confirmed that Hester’s impact has been positive.
“Professionally and personally, I'm very sorry to see Jeff Hester leave us – but I completely understand and support him,” said Bless, the Bull Dogs’ football coach and assistant athletic director. “Coaching for Jeff and working alongside him in the athletic office, I've come to greatly respect his passion for student-athletes, his work ethic, sincerity and consistency.
“During his tenure, Columbus North athletics has maintained a standard of excellence that not many schools can match. I attribute much of the credit to Jeff Hester. Personally, I have so appreciated Jeff's unwavering support of me and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”
Sluder, the CNHS girls’ track and girls’ cross country coach, concurred.
“Jeff Hester has been a tremendous leader for athletics and our students-athletes here at North,” Sluder said. “I can specifically say he made our track and cross country athletes and coaching staff feel like we were the best-supported program in the entire state. He was physically there supporting us at meets, working hard to set up our events, and sending texts to congratulate us after meets. We will miss him, but wish him the best of luck."
A native of Elwood, Ind., Hester participated in athletics at Elwood High School and graduated in 1992. He competed in tennis for one year each at Judson University and Grace College before moving to Indiana University and graduating in 1996. Hester received a master's degree from the University of Akron in 1999.
He began work at the high school level at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, serving there from 1999-2008. He coached middle school boys basketball and girls basketball, high school boys tennis and girls tennis, JV girls basketball and varsity assistant boys basketball while at the school.
He moved into athletic administration in 2003, working as the HCS assistant athletic director from 2003-05 and its athletic director from 2005-08 prior to moving to Columbus North. He became a Certified Athletic Administrator in 2009 and received a Certified Master Athletic Administrator distinction earlier in 2020.
Hester and his wife, Jennifer, are parents to five children – Bailey, Isaiah, Sydney, Brennan and Madison.
The Columbus North opening will be posted on the school corporation website. Anyone interested in applying for the position should go to the posting and follow the application procedure provided in it.
PHOTO: Jeff Hester (right) shares a moment with his wife, Jennifer, after he was presented the District 4 Athletic Director of the Year Award in March 2016 by the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
Conference Indiana championships (Columbus North only)
Baseball -- 2012, 2015, 2019.
Boys Basketball -- 2014 (tie).
Boys Cross Country -- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019.
Boys Golf -- 2011, 2013, 2014.
Boys Soccer -- 2008, 2009 (tie), 2011, 2013, 2014.
Boys Swimming -- 2014, 2015, 2019.
Boys Tennis -- 2008, 2013, 2019.
Football -- 2018.
Girls Basketball -- 2012 (tie), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (tie).
Girls Cross Country -- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019.
Girls Golf -- 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
Girls Soccer -- 2008 (tie), 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019.
Girls Swimming -- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.
Girls Tennis -- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015.
Girls Track -- 2014.
Gymnastics -- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.
Softball -- 2009 (tie), 2019.
Volleyball -- 2008.
Unified Track -- 2017, 2018, 2019.
Boys All-Sports -- 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2018-19, 2019-20 (tie).
Girls All-Sports -- 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 (tie), 2016-17, 2018-19, 2019-20.
State Champion Teams at Columbus North
Boys Cross Country – 2009, 2010, 2011.
Girls Cross Country – 2009.
Boys Soccer – 2012.
Boys Golf – 2014.
Girls Basketball – 2015.
Gymnastics – 2016.
Individual State Champions at Columbus North
2009-10, Girls Gymnastics, Cassie Funcheon (vault)
2012-13, Boys Swimming, Cody Taylor (100 breast)
2013-14, Boys Swimming, Cody Taylor (100 breast)
2013-14, Boys Golf, Christian Fairbanks (co-champion)
2013-14, Boys Golf, Michael VanDeventer (co-champion)
2014-15, Boys Swimming, Michael Brinegar (500 free)
2014-15, Girls Gymnastics, Ashley Holliday (bars)
2015-16, Girls Gymnastics, Claire Thompson (bars, beam, all-around)
2016-17, Girls Golf, Holly Anderson
2016-17, Girls Gymnastics, Ashley Holliday (vault)
2016-17, Girls Gymnastics, Claire Thompson (beam)
IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winners at Columbus North
2009-10, Girls Gymnastics, Cassie Funcheon
2011-12, Boys Soccer (2A), Nathan Kaplan
2012-13, Boys Soccer (2A), Reid Wilson
2012-13, Girls Gymnastics, Chelsea Wieland
2013-14, Boys Golf, Michael VanDeventer
2014-15, Girls Basketball (4A), Ali Patberg
2015-16, Girls Basketball (4A), Paige Littrell
2015-16, Girls Gymnastics, Katrina May
2016-17, Girls Gymnastics, Ashley Holliday
2017-18, Girls Gymnastics, Claire Thompson
2019-20, Girls Gymnastics, Sami Heathcote