Riffert to lead AHS boys track program

Collin Riffert

Ever since he stepped away from leading the Alpena High girls track program four years ago, the itch to coach hasn’t gone away for Collin Riffert.

So when the Alpena boys track job came open earlier this year, Riffert figured it was the perfect time to scratch that itch.

Alpena’s athletic department thought the same thing and announced Wednesday that Riffert has been hired as Alpena’s new boys track coach. He’ll succeed Bob Bennett, who retired this spring after 35 years as boys track coach.

Riffert’s hiring accomplishes several goals for the Wildcats–it fills a vacancy, gives Riffert a chance to be a head coach again and puts a familiar face in charge of the program.

“It feels awesome. There’s a lot of tradition (with) taking over this position and it’s an honor,” Riffert said. “I’ve always enjoyed being a head coach; no one reason for it, but I was looking to get back into it, the job was open and it was the right time.”

Riffert returns as a head coach after leading the Alpena girls track team from 2011-14 and the cross country team from 2007-2011. During his time as coach, Alpena regularly competed for the Big North Conference title in cross country and had one of the Big North’s top girls track squads.

While he hasn’t been a head coach for several years, Riffert has been a familiar face around Alpena’s track program. For the last several seasons, he’s worked as an assistant under Alpena girls track coach Joy Bullis, coaching high jump, long jump and pole vault among other events. Helping out in that capacity has been beneficial for Riffert, who’s been able to care for his two young sons at home and keep his passion for coaching alive.

“It’s been awesome to have that opportunity,” Riffert said. “When Joy Bullis offered up that assistant position, it was a good fit because I could do what I wanted to do.”

When the Wildcats open the 2019 season next spring, it will be the first time in more than 60 years that a coach not named Bennett will be leading the program. Tom Bennett coached the Wildcats for 28 years before Bob Bennett took over the program in 1989 and coached for 35 years.

Riffert praised Bennett’s tenure with the Wildcats and said his expectations won’t change as he begins his second head coaching stint.

“I would expect it to be just like before; just continue to grow the program. The boys program has grown a lot in the last few years. Bob Bennett has done a great job growing the program,” Riffert said. “The goal is to get as many kids as you can to state, win a conference title and maybe win a regional every once in a while.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.