Though track, wrestling and skiing teams historically do well at Onteora, it was an exceptionally fine year as nine school records were broken in indoor track and field, with distance runner Emily Waligurski placing third in the state at Cornell in the 1500 meters. The wrestling team ranked 28th in the state, with a school record of 24 wins. Wrestler C.J. Goldizen placed fifth at 135 pounds in the small-school division at the State Tournament in Albany. The high school also hosted (to a sold-out crowd) the Section IX Division Wrestling Tournament. And for the third straight year coach Lou Chartrand’s charges won the Section IX title. Girls’ alpine skiing had 42 wins against six losses while the boys had 46 wins to two losses and placed third at the State championships. The Girls basketball team ranked in the State top 20 during the regular season in Class B.
A state mandate that requires a full-time director of physical education was one of the changes that gave rise to the programs’ resurrections. In the summer of 2009 Nick Millas was hired for the spot. Millas said past athletic directors had worked part-time, generally on an extra-duty stipend for a teacher. But new mandates in health require a great deal of paperwork, equipment upkeep, coaching management, and it all turns into full-time work. “My official title is, Director of Athletics, Health and Physical Education, as well as Dean of Students, nine-through-twelve,” Millas said.
The dean of students post oversees discipline issues in the high school. Interscholastic sports, which at one time were separate from the physical education department, are now folded into the same oversight. Thus, Milas is in charge of budgeting, curriculum, policy, scheduling, equipment, coaches and paperwork. “I’m the resource guy,” he said. “I get them what they need to do the job well.”
The athletic director’s position was difficult to fill. It required certification in physical education and administration. Millas has an advanced administrative certificate from SUNY New Paltz and a master’s in health education and bachelor’s degree in physical education from SUNY Cortland. He was a physical education and health teacher in Ellenville for three years and a health teacher in Liberty for four years.
The cross-country trail that was often a vocal complaint was Millas’ first task on the Onteora job. He said repairs were already in place when he arrived. He gives most of the credit to Eagle Scout and Onteora student Reilly Hayes.
Sports uniforms, especially for modified teams from grades seven and eight, were another point of contention among parents and athletes. The uniforms were passed down from the high school and often times were tattered, mismatched or oversized. “When I first came here,” Millas said, “the storage closet, and everyone can attest to this, the new uniforms were piled high with old uniforms and nothing was really inventoried, everything was just kind of thrown in there.” Middle-school athletes now have their own uniforms. In order to keep prices down, Millas will purchase in larger bulk that allows longer rotation.
The football program, that once lost a year due to lack of interest, is continuing to gain steam. Millas said the district now has 25 athletes at each level: modified, junior varsity and varsity. Most of the equipment is new and inventoried. Past rumors had football athletes reusing mouth guards. Millas said he never heard of that, and that no one is reusing mouth guards.
Coaching shortages are a problem in all school districts. “We have some teachers that coach, but not all my coaches are teachers, so I look to community members to help fill that need.” Besides placing ads in the local papers, he reaches out to local colleges and sports organizations with a good amount of success.
Millas also said he hopes to bring physical education for college credit to Onteora. “One of the P.E. teachers brought the idea to me and I said, Why not! If English can have an association with a college, we should, too.”
Millas has set out to make Onteora physical fitness more student-friendly. “The department is headed by me, but run by the kids.” Using the weight room as an example, he said, “When I came here, there wasn’t a soul in the weight room. I took a look around and said this was not going to benefit our program.”
Millas upgraded the equipment and offered supervision during off-season times so students can use it during free time. He wanted to make it a more social place and new equipment includes rowing and running machines. “That’s how I want it to function, for everyone’s health and wellness,” Millas explained. Becausae it’s a more inviting place, it now fills with students throughout the day.
And the athletic director reported he receives very few complaints. He appreciates the overwhelming community support for athletes and sends out a special thanks to the Onteora Booster Club. ++