It’s a unique challenge for an athletic director to organize and outfit all of the needs of a new high school.
Sharon Mardesich has spent the last few months tackling all of the details as the athletic programs at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain got ready for their inaugural seasons.
“It’s been an exciting thing to build such a positive thing out here in Eagle Mountain,” Mardesich said. “My love for Eagle Mountain has tripled. I live in Saratoga Springs and I never thought I would have love for another community like I do for Eagle Mountain right now. The people out here are so awesome.”
She had seen how schools develop and evolve during her 10 years at Westlake — a school she was very passionate about. Circumstances made her decision to go to Cedar Valley a difficult one.
“At first I was like, I can’t leave my Westlake family,” Mardesich said. “I have a son who is the drum major at Westlake. He will be the only son I won’t be with when he graduates. I talked to him but he said that I needed to go for it for me. He said he was going to graduate in a year and that he would be fine. I decided to do it and make that jump. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.”
But she has seen amazing energy as things have come together for the Aviators.
“Each time you come out it’s like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s done!,’” Mardesich said. “You get super-excited. The whole other end of the building is done except the athletic terminal but everything is coming together.”
The two biggest challenges she has faced have been the time everything takes to get set and the unknowns.
“You can’t focus on the negatives,” Mardesich said. “There have been challenges but you have to focus on what you can do to fix them. We’re not letting any of the stuff that comes up kill us. We’re moving forward and making it work.”
One of the examples of the unknown came as new Cedar Valley head football coach Weston Zabriskie tried to get the right amount of equipment for his team.
“I was hired in November and ordered equipment in November,” Zabriskie said. “We ordered based on what previous schools have done. They said make sure to order extra. We thought we had enough but then they day came to hand out equipment. We had to order 35 more sets of equipment. We had to order more extra-large helmets and even and extra-extra-large helmet. Those are things you don’t see coming.”
The time it takes to get everything ready has also required flexibility from the athletic programs. Mardesich expressed immense gratitude to other elementary and middle schools for helping the Aviator fall sports teams have a place to practice while the school’s facilities are being finished.
“They have their own challenges but opened up their gyms up for us,” Mardesich said. “Frontier Middle School even put off waxing their gym so we could use it during the summer. The whole district has been extremely supportive in helping us prepare.”
There is also the normalization period as coaches and administrators build new relationships. Zabriskie came from South Sevier and always wanted to be the first head coach at a new school but has discovered it wasn’t exactly everything he originally imagined.
“There are a lot of things you don’t think about,” Zabriskie said. “For me, it hasn’t just been putting things in but also getting used to a new administration and a new district. There have been moments that were high-stress. Picking out uniforms and helmet designs have been the fun stuff but then there is interviewing guys for a coaching staff and learning to mesh with a coaching staff.”
But Zabriskie said there have been moments where he caught a glimpse of the direction things are headed.
“We were at 7-on-7 camp at Weber State,” Zabriskie said. “A coach at Weber State told me that this was a fun group to watch. As a coach, to hear that while at a brand-new school, that was a moment where I knew we were moving in the right direction.”
Many of the fall sports have already gotten underway, including the first home girls soccer game (a 4-1 loss to Lehi on Aug. 15). The school had its grand opening last Saturday but there will be another christening when the lights go on at the stadium for the first home football game against Spanish Fork on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.
“Football is a big deal,” Zabriskie said. “I try to emphasize that to the boys and their parents. If you use the term ‘Friday night lights,’ anybody in the country knows that is dealing with one specific sport.”
Mardesich said she’s excited for the players to get the opportunity to play on their new home court or field.
“It’s more than cool; it’s awesome,” she said. “The soccer team came out for their first home game, talking about how they wanted to do it. They got the drumline to come out. For Friday’s football game, we are going to put a great show together for our fans. Everyone behind these kids is amazing. They care so much about the kid and they want them to enjoy the experience. It’s amazing.”