Six new SHS winter head coaches set to start |

Six new SHS winter head coaches set to start

FARMER’S KORNER – When it came time for coaches to introduce themselves at last week’s Summit High School winter sports meeting, listeners focused.After all, they had to. Six of the eight SHS sports teams will have new head coaches this winter, so introductions were more than just a formality.The turnover is not unprecedented at Summit – in her 10 years as athletic director, Gretchen Nies has had to endure nearly 40 head coaching changes – but this season’s volume is worth noting.Alpine ski coach Tory Hauser and boys basketball coach Mike Rathgeber, both entering their third year, are the lone holdovers from last winter’s head coaches.In no specific order, here are the new faces that will be leading the Summit High programs in the upcoming season:

Neal takes over for Julie Norman, who left after two years to pursue a career in broadcasting. This will be his first head coaching position at the high school level, although he brings extensive experience building the skills of young players before they reach high school. In fact, Neal ran the youth feeder program at ThunderRidge High School in Denver – the two-time defending 5A state champ – before moving to Summit last year. He was an assistant at ThunderRidge for two years, and served that role in a volunteer capacity at Summit last season. He plans to bring a high-tempo brand of play to the Farmer’s Korner floor this year, and his track record on the Front Range leads one to believe he’ll be successful: Almost all of this year’s ThunderRidge roster – which is ranked No. 5 in the nation preseason – came from his feeder program.He played basketball and baseball at Albion (Mich.) College.

Graf replaces the departed Graig Fischer, who moved to Florida to take a club coaching position. A history teacher at the high school, Graf is the only one of the six new coaches that teaches at Summit High. She was an assistant for two years under Fischer, and played collegiate water polo at Northwestern.She inherits a program with some good young talent and, perhaps more importantly, great numbers. “We have a foundation,” she said, “and a lot of freshmen and sophomores have signed up to swim.”

Melvin has been a fixture in Summit’s youth wrestling world for the past five years, leading the Little Tigers program all of those years and serving as a volunteer assistant at the high school the past couple seasons. He replaces Scott Giles at Farmer’s Korner, after Giles resigned to spend more time with his family. Melvin’s biggest challenge, as it was for Giles, will be to deal with a lack of wrestlers while still maintaining a competitive team.

Sain, the school’s third Nordic head coach in three years, takes over for Richard Nelson, who resigned earlier this fall. Because the county’s Nordic program was reorganized overall – Matt Dayton was hired as the program director, and will lead the Rocky Mountain Division-prioritized schedule – Sain will be able to focus primarily on high school races.He said he’s excited to uphold the school’s storied Nordic tradition, and to add to the 30 state championship banners hanging in the gym.Sain and Tom Fatora led the Summit Middle School Nordic program last year.

Smith will take the reins of what is still a young Tigers hockey program. Jake Quigley resigned last year after two years on the job, and Smith was hired in the offseason. He spent last season on the bench as an assistant, and filled in for Quigley for one game as head coach after Quigley broke his wrist.The SHS hockey team is one of only three Summit teams, along with alpine and Nordic skiing, that competes in the state’s 5A class.

Weber takes over for Maggie Hedge, who has in the last few years built Summit into a power on the state’s high school cheerleading map. Hedge also helped bring credibility to the cheerleaders within this community.Weber also is an assistant coach with the Summit High School gymnastics team, which qualified for the state meet this fall.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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