SHHS fall sports underway with new league, AD

As the Sweet Home High School fall season gets under way, the Huskies have a new league, a new athletic director and several new coaches.

Fall camps this week mark the beginning of the season.

The Huskies are leaving the Val-Co €“ Central, Newport, Taft and Philomath €“ to enter the Sky-Em conference, which also includes Elmira, Junction City, Sisters, La Pine and Cottage Grove.

“That’s usually a pretty good league in most sports,” said Kostanty Knurowski, health teacher, head boys’ basketball coach and the new athletic director. “We’re going from one tough league to another. I think it’s a very quality league.

“One of the reasons they’ve been so competitive is because they had Marist. They’re good at everything.”

The Spartans are one challenge the Huskies won’t see in league play this year as that school moves to 5A. Longtime Sky-Em team Pleasant Hill is moving to 3A. Pleasant Hill has competed with Sweet Home for the top two spots in cheerleading for about the past four years. Pleasant Hill also edged out the Huskies for the state championship in boys basketball in 1999.

Junction City and Elmira have been frequent opponents in non-league games, and Sisters shared the Capital Conference with the Huskies before the Huskies moved to the Val-Co in 2006.

The Huskies were in the Capital Conference for 24 years prior to that move. Stayton and Cascade, out of the former Capital Conference, have been lumped together with the four remaining Val-Co schools to form a new Oregon West Conference.

The Sky-Em will remain competitive, but so will the Huskies just as they were in the Capital and the Val-Co, Knurowski said.

“The teams we’ve had that’ve been good in the past will continue to be pretty good.”

Getting ready, athletes have been participating in open field and gym periods, Knurowski said. Fall camps start this week, and daily doubles will start soon.

The Huskies will have new head coaches in four sports, including Dustin Nichol in football, Alicia Meier in volleyball, Amber Rosa in cheerleading and Ryan Regrutto in boys soccer.

The on-again, off-again water polo team will return this year continuing under the direction of third-year coach Craig Martin.

Knurowski has led the boys’ basketball team since 2008, succeeding Tim Little. SHHS hired him as athletic director to succeed Vice Principal Tim Porter who moved half-time to the District 55 Central Office, where he became curriculum director following the retirement of Jan Sharp.

“It means I’m going to be busier this year than I have been in the past,” Knurowski said. “It’s something I’ve been really looking forward to.”

He will continue to coach basketball and will teach half of his normal number of classes.

“I’m a sports guy,” Knurowski said. “It’s always been something I’ve been pretty interested in. I didn’t know the opportunity would present itself as quickly as it did.”

As a teacher instead of an administrator, he gets to keep his own team as well, he said, but he’ll be able to contribute to the success of other programs as well.

He’s being paid to be in the gym, he said. “Obviously it’s more than that, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. It’s a dream job for me. This is the community where I wanted to teach. Being able to have a dream job in that community €“ You can’t ask for much more than that.”

The Huskies have had some successful years recently, Knurowski said. He wants to make sure the teams continue receiving the support they need as they strive for excellence.

As athletic director, he sets up schedules; sets up the actual contests, makes sure that officials have been scheduled, deals with internal issues, and makes sure the teams follow school and Oregon Student Athletic Association procedures.

The district is cutting its athletics budget by $15,000 this year, and that’s on his mind.

Knurowski will look for ways to continue keeping money flowing into the programs to help them remain as successful they have been despite the tough economic times.

The school must find ways to cut or replenish funds, which is difficult when everyone else is in the same boat.

“We’ve got a great group of coaches, I think, and I think we have a chance to continue to have good success and help kids continue to learn life lessons, with educational opportunities outside of classes.”