Kirk to captain Coal Ridge sports
PEACH VALLEY — Ben Kirk isn’t the kind of guy who’ll back down from a challenge. Now, the newly appointed athletic director at Coal Ridge High School is facing a challenge head on.
“My goal is to make Coal Ridge the most desirable school in the area to come to,” Kirk said. “I know that it’s not something that’s going to be easy, but I also know that it’s something that can be done through sports.”
Kirk, who will enter his 10th year at the 11-year-old school, was officially given the chance to do that when the Garfield County Re-2 board of education approved his hiring at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. He’ll replace Mike Aragon, who was the school’s athletic director for three years before accepting a job as the athletic director at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland.
Coal Ridge Principal Rick Elertson initially didn’t offer the job to Kirk, but the man who was originally hired for the position turned it down at the end of June. That opened the door for Kirk, who is even more determined than ever to succeed because of that.
“I was really bummed that I didn’t get it at first because I really wanted the job,” Kirk said. “I guess the athlete in me and the competitive side of me didn’t appreciate that the other guy was the top candidate. At the same time, though, I was surprised and I’m now very grateful.”
Kirk, who finished college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has been an assistant football and baseball coach. His coaching success, however, has come as Coal Ridge’s head track and field coach for a program that notched two consecutive runner-up finishes in the Class 3A state championships in Lakewood in 2013 and 2014. His 2014 girls team finished fourth in the team standings and, in 2013, he was named with his wife, Meggie, as the Class 3A Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year by the Denver Post. Kirk will continue as the school’s head track coach while serving as its AD.
His success in recent years has driven many of Coal Ridge’s students to the track oval. Kirk, however, recognizes that athletic success also is what has drawn incoming freshman from Silt and New Castle to attend high school in either Glenwood Springs or Rifle instead of the more-convenient Peach Valley campus in between the towns.
Kirk hopes that can change, and that was part of his sales pitch during his job interview. As a graduate of Hotchkiss High School in 2001, he saw first hand how small communities can rally around their high school sports teams.
His overall goal is to bring that kind of atmosphere to Coal Ridge with hopes that success in multiple sports will have the same effect on the school’s enrollment as his track team’s success had on its growing number of athletes.
“Our goal is to have good athletics all the way around,” he said. “That’s what will help make people want to come here.”
Coal Ridge also has had something else in its sports culture that drew a very specific genre in four-sport athletes. In recent years, Coal Ridge has had multiple female student athletes who have simultaneously competed in track and field and soccer during the spring sports season. Just this year, Coal Ridge had its first 16-time letter winner in Mariela Martinez, who will run track at the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, in the coming school year.
Kirk, who had first-hand experience with those athletes as the head track coach, isn’t opposed to keeping that around.
“I’m all for offering a kid whatever they want to participate in as long as they can handle it,” he said.
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