LCSC's Brooke Henze is stepping down soon -- but there's not much time for reflection

May 23—For Lewis-Clark State athletic director Brooke Henze, the 2024 Avista NAIA World Series is going to be a combination of firsts and lasts.

It'll be the first World Series since her freshman season as a member of the LCSC women's basketball team that her school's baseball squad won't be in the 10-team field. It'll be the first time during her seven-year stint as AD that she'll have to organize a Series that won't have the Warriors in it.

It'll also be her last World Series as the athletic director of LCSC.

Henze announced her decision to step down as AD back in April. Her contract will go through June, one month after the Series ends. But, for all intents and purposes, the 2024 World Series will be her last act as AD.

Henze hasn't allowed the emotions of her departure catch up to her — partly because they might overwhelm her, mostly because there's so much work she and the rest of the athletic department must accomplish to get ready for the Series.

There were head shots from 10 teams, only one of which has competed in Lewiston this season, to upload and get ready for the video board at Harris Field. There were things like the ABCA Kids Clinic to prepare for. There's a banquet. There was the media/practice/photo day on Wednesday.

This is the busiest week of the year for Lewis-Clark State. Aside from a half-marathon that Henze ran on Sunday, there isn't time to think about a whole lot else, especially since she is dealing with the last big event at a place that has defined her adult life.

"You ask an athlete when they're in the championship game, they say they're focused on the game," Henze said. "And that's me. I'm focused on the tournament. I'll cry afterward, I'll have all the feelers afterward."

Henze, 45, hasn't specified why she's stepping away at this time, but has said her decision isn't health related.

Henze started as a student athlete on the women's basketball team from 1997-2001. Once she graduated, she studied at Gonzaga for graduate school before returning to LCSC and working for the athletic department. After she returned to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, she worked her way up in athletics — learning under former AD Gary Picone as an assistant and associate athletic director before eventually being named athletic director in 2017.

"(I'm) sad she has to leave," Picone said. "Best co-worker I ever had."

During her time with the Warriors, Henze has done every job someone could do within the department — except announcing, which she guaranteed won't change this year. She's worked concessions, ticket booth, cleanup crew and, outside of her duties with LCSC, has been the tournament director of the World Series since 2011.

"The teams that come here, and the coaches and the fans, they're full of gratitude," Henze said. "And as a former student-athlete, we had a similar experience in Jackson, Tenn. ... The town rolled out the red carpet for the NAIA women's basketball championship. I knew what it felt like and that's what I believe that we provide. That special feeling that you should have when you're at a national championship."

Her life experience in Lewiston goes beyond just her career though. She's originally from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. During her time as AD, she fought (and beat) cancer. She also became a mother after returning to the valley.

That's probably why it's so hard for her to think about this World Series as her last as athletic director.

"I've been trying to do my best to set aside my feelings," Henze said. "This is the last one. I've been a part of every different type of championship tournament here. I was a part of when we're an automatic bid, when we won national championships, when we've come runner-up, when we lost (in the Opening Round). And now I get a chance to really show the teams in the NAIA that we do this because we love baseball and we do it because the community's embraced it and we love doing it. I'm trying not to think about me. ... We're rolling out the red carpet."

The World Series keeps the department busy — impending departures or not. But putting together the Series has never been a one-person show.

Alisha Alexander has been with LCSC since 2018 and is in her sixth year as sports information director and her first as assistant athletic director.

Alexander, alongside Henze, has been one of the Warriors staff members at the forefront of organizing and getting all the ducks in a row for the Series. Alexander's efforts led to her being the first woman named NAIA SID of the year in 2023 and the first woman to earn Cascade Conference SID of the year in 2021.

"She took a chance on me," Alexander said. "I was 23 years old when she offered me the job and I moved up here. That was a really unique spot for someone — in their first lead role at a school like L-C State that's got so much attention on it. So I really leaned on her heavily those first couple years to figure things out. I'm really lucky to have had someone like Brooke."

Henze's impact has had some positive shockwaves throughout athletics. The department is predominately women, a rarity in college athletic departments in general, much less the NAIA. Under her leadership, the Warriors have had four national titles (World Series in 2017, two individual track field titles in 2023 and another in 2024) and nine of the school's 12 sports have qualified a team or athlete to national competitions.

LCSC athletics has also seen its fair share of scholar-athletes under her watch. In 2022-23 alone, 72 student-athletes received all-conference academic honors.

Henze will stay with the Lewis-Clark State athletic department through the end of her contract in June and help oversee the transition to a new athletic director.

"I think we've been extremely lucky," Alexander said. "Our last two ADs have been home grown. ... (Gary Picone) took on the role of AD and did phenomenally. There's a reason he's a Hall of Famer. And then Brooke learned everything she knew from Gary. ... I think it's going to be a really unique spot for somebody to step into. L-C State, just on the NAIA level, is unique compared to a lot of other schools. It's going to have to be someone who understands that. It's going to be a big job. Brooke has left some big shoes to fill, for sure."

The World Series is often seen as the symbolic end of year for spring sports in the NAIA. It will also mark the successful and influential mark of Henze's time as athletic director, and the beginning of a new era of LCSC athletics.

Kowatsch can be contacted at (208)-848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.