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New Ringgold athletic director welcomes challenge

| Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ron McMichael was recently hired as the new athletic director at Ringgold High School.

For the past nine years he has served as the athletic director at The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh, a private school, which is a member of The Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools.

McMichael, whose contract runs until 2013, will begin working at Ringgold this month. He was selected from a field of nearly 60 candidates and replaces Lloyd Price, who resigned in early April. McMichael said he appreciates Ringgold's rich sports tradition.

"You look at the names you see on the walls or at the stadium such as Joe Montana, Stan Musial, Ken Griffey, and Fred Cox," McMichael said. "Those are certainly not names to be taken lightly so obviously there's a boatload of athletic talent in the Valley. It's a matter of getting kids interested and coming out for the athletic programs that you offer."

A 1994 graduate of Lock Haven University, McMichael was a standout in cross country and track for the Bald Eagles. While there he set a school record in the 1,500-meter run and the 5,000-meter indoor event.

He later was a graduate assistant and then head cross country coach at nearby California University of Pennsylvania for five years before becoming athletic director at The Neighborhood Academy.

McMichael began the athletic department at The Neighborhood Academy and that school competes in the WPIAL in track as a Class AA member as well as basketball as an independent. McMichael believes his experience there will be most beneficial.

"It's a smaller school, but I was able to build from the ground up and learn as you grow," McMichael said. "Obviously there's a financial side to everything but Ringgold's school board and district have made a commitment by upgrading their athletic facilities and try to put them in the best position to draw talented coaches into the area. You just try to make the best use of the resources that you have and create as good an environment as possible for your coaches and student-athletes to succeed."

On the job

One of McMichael's initial tasks will be assisting in Ringgold's hiring of new football and baseball head coaches for the upcoming school year. Since Chuck Colborn served as Ringgold's head football coach from 1993-1999, the Rams have had six different football head coaches in 10 years.

"We need to find coaches who are committed to the kids in the Mon Valley," he said.

Mark Bluman, who served as a graduate assistant coach under McMichael in the late 1990s, believes Ringgold has hired the right person to bring much-needed stability to its athletic department. Bluman will begin his tenth year as the men's and women's head track and field and cross country coach at Frances Marion University, an NCAA Division II school located in Florence, S.C.

"Ron is a very organized, down-to-earth person," said Bluman, who ran his senior year for McMichael before being hired by him to help coach. "He knows how to do more with less in terms of dealing with challenging budgets and living in the district where he will soon work is an obvious advantage."

McMichael resides in Nottingham Township with his wife, Jen, a former collegiate runner who is Ringgold High School's assistant track and field coach and the Middle School's cross country head coach. The couple's daughter, Kirsten, is a seventh-grade student at Ringgold Middle School and competes in cross country and basketball.

Just as he did at his previous school McMichael said academics would always come first in terms of priorities.

Ringgold has also had many athletic directors since the widely respected Paul Zolak served as the district's athletic director from 1977 through 1997. McMichael, who is originally from Auburn, N.Y., looks to bring back stability to that position at Ringgold and has found a home in the Mon Valley.

"That's the plan," he said. "This is basically the place I want to work at and retire from. People talk about dream jobs and how can I not want to work for the district which my wife and daughter are part of."

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