Head Coach – Kenny Niles
Coach Niles has been a head coach of a high school baseball team for 21 years. He is currently the head coach at Churchill High School where he has led the Lancers to three semi-final appearances and won the 5A State Championship with a record of 29-3 in 2017. Niles overall record at Churchill is currently 140-47.
In 2017 and in 2021, Niles was selected to be the head coach of the South All-Stars in the Oregon All-Star Series. In his tenure at Churchill, he has had the privilege of coaching over a dozen 1st team All-State baseball players, two state pitchers of the year, and one state player of the year. He has led the Lancers to 7 consecutive post-season appearances and the school’s first State baseball title in 2017.
More than 25 of Coach Niles’ players have gone on to play college baseball. Prior to being hired as the Challengers head coach, his Churchill summer team has won two Junior State Championships in 2017 and 2018 with a combined record of 63-9
Before taking over the Lancers, Niles had a successful 6-year career at Sheldon High School. In 2007 he led the Irish to the Southwest Conference title and number #1 ranking in 6A. That team was anchored by three Oregon State signees and 2 players that got selected in the MLB draft. The Irish were ranked in the top 50 Nationally.
Niles also has coached at Mt. View, Bend, Grant Union, and Sisters High School and has received league Coach of the Year honors 4 times.
As a player, Kenny won two State titles at Grant Union High School (1990, 1992) playing for legendary head coach Art Thunell. Coach Niles would later return to his alma mater as Thunell’s pitching coach.
Niles is a Special Education instructor at Churchill High School and he’s married to his wife Jennifer. They have a young son, Camden Jacob (of course named after 2 baseball fields) who will be at the yard supporting the team.
Kenny and Jennifer recently opened the Niles108 Baseball Academy in Springfield in collaboration with the Springfield Baseball Project. Kenny was also recently named the Director of Baseball Operations and Player Personnel for the expansion of the Springfield Drifters of the West Coast League.
Assistant Coach – Jon Guldager
Coach Guldager returns as a Challenger assistant coach this summer after serving in a similar role from 2004 – 2006, helping the Challengers to two state appearances during his three seasons.
A graduate of Linfield College, where he was an all-conference and all-district first baseman, has over 30 years of coaching at the high school level in multiple sports. His career began at Elmira High School as the head coach of the Falcons from 1993 – 2007. In those 15 years, he led the Falcons to 10 state appearances and in 1995 Elmira went 22-3 losing in the quarter-finals.
Jon was selected as the State of Oregon’s Coach-of-the-Year for his efforts. He went on to be the head coach at Willamette High School for the next ten years where he guided the Wolverines to the state playoffs four of those years.
Over his 25 years as a head coach, he won 340 games at that time ranking him in the top 50 of all-time wins in the State of Oregon. After a summer of coaching cross-town rival Willamette Valley Titans, as their pitching coach, helping the Titans to the state tournament, Jon joined the staff at Churchill High School in the same role as their pitching coach. The Lancers attempted to defend their state title but came up just short in the semi-finals in 2018. The Lancer pitching staff finished the season with a team ERA of 1.75. Jon just completed his 27th year working at Elmira High School as a teacher and currently as a career counselor.
He is married to his wife, Christine (26 years) and has two children, Justin and Ashley. Both Jon and Justin played for the Challengers during their high school days.
Assistant Coach – Marcus Lydon
Coach Lydon is in his first season as one of the Challenger’s assistant coaches. Marcus graduated from Marist Catholic High School in 2017 where he was a 4-year starter and was selected as a 2-time All-State baseball player.
He began his collegiate baseball career at Seattle University in which he played one year before transferring to Linn-Benton Community College. In 2018, Marcus helped the Roadrunners win the NWAC South Division Championship. Marcus then transferred to the University of Oregon where he played for the Ducks.
After finishing his eligibility up as a player, Marcus traded his cleats in for a coaching clipboard. Coach Lydon is now currently the Assistant Director of Player Development, guiding the Ducks to a second-place PAC-12 finish this spring.
Assistant Coach – Justin Guldager