Hi 27° | Lo 17°

High School Notes: New Woodstock Athletic Director Settles In

Woodstock — Jeff Thomas used to joke about it with Hartford High Athletic Director Joe James: It just didn’t seem to make sense that Justin Wardwell drove from Bridgewater to his job as Hartford Middle School AD, while Mike Jabour was going in the opposite direction for similar duties at Woodstock Middle School.

But then fate took over, knocking down a bunch of dominoes to make Wardwell’s commute significantly shorter.

Thomas has left his position as Woodstock High’s athletic director to become the school’s dean of students. He will be replaced by Wardwell, a former WUHS baseball player who will oversee a roster of coaches that includes his father and younger sister.

As it so happens, Jabour has since moved on to become athletic director at Milton High School. It’s one of several job changes at Woodstock, including Thomas’ move into administration.

The first domino was Woodstock principal Greg Schillinger’s decision to take an assistant principal job at Rutland High last month. Woodstock school officials moved assistant principal Garon Smail into Schillinger’s old job and created a dean of students position that caught Thomas’ eye.

The Springfield High School graduate is and isn’t leaving athletics as a result of his new role, he said. He’ll still be regularly attending sporting events while also adjusting to duties that include discipline and overseeing Woodstock High’s freshman class. He will also continue to teach one health class a semester and will return to the hardwood as the Wasps’ boys basketball coach this winter.

“I don’t plan on really getting away from anything,” said Thomas, who is three classes away from earning certification as a principal. “As an assistant principal or principal, you’re still part of athletic life. I’m actually going to oversee the athletic department, and that entails when Greg was principal — we would meet every other week on issues that had come up. I’ll do that with Justin Wardwell. … It’s good to have him aboard.”

Wardwell said on Tuesday that the change came quickly, but it also made sense. The Woodstock High job is also full-time and includes duties with the middle school.

“Starting so close to the season, I’m just trying to get organized for the fall,” said Wardwell, who graduated from WUHS in 2008 and departed Western New England University, in Springfield, Mass., with a business administration degree two years ago. “Jeff set this great template for the experience when I was here that I hope to maintain. Every coach has come up to me and said the atmosphere is so much better than it was five or six years ago.”

Wardwell also inherits two coaches he should know pretty well. His father, Butch, works with three Woodstock teams (varsity boys soccer, middle school basketball, varsity baseball), while his sister, Blake, has joined the Wasps’ field hockey program as an assistant to Hannah Nichols after graduating from Castleton State in the spring.

“It’s a nice change of roles for me,” Justin Wardwell laughed. “My dad was one of my baseball coaches throughout my high school years, so it’s certainly something that we’re used to on that end. … My sister is with the field hockey program, where she excelled in high school and college. I’m happy for her, too; she was excited to get that position.

“It’s nice to finally be able to be in charge for once,” Wardwell added. “It’s nice to be able to work in here and I’m excited to get started.”

Other AD Additions: Three other Upper Valley schools are breaking in new athletic directors as well with the coming start of the year.

David Fisher has taken over AD duties at Whitcomb High School, replacing Willy Walker. Fisher came on board at the Bethel school last winter as the Hornets’ boys basketball coach, a position he’s expected to continue.

Jessica Taplin is the new athletic director at the South Royalton School. She succeeds Gretchen Grote, who held the position for the past two school years.

Thetford Academy announced Noah Crane as its new AD over the summer, replacing Jade Huntington.

Hey, Ref: The Vermont Soccer Officials Association will hold the second of two training sessions for potential referees on Saturday at Whitcomb High School from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The workout will include the learning of rules, a test and a field practice. Completing the training and passing the test will make participants eligible to work varsity and subvarsity high school games this fall. The cost for the clinic is $50, which includes VSOA membership for the upcoming season.

The association will hold its first clinic on Friday at Williamstown High School as well, also from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, contact Frank Martel at fmartel55@yahoo.com or 802-782-4489, or Gary Blodgett at gblodg@comast.net or 802-558-3147.

Hooked on Phoenix: Sharon Academy Athletic Director Blake Fabrikant looked far and wide for a girls soccer coach this fall. It turned out he needed to only look in the mirror.

Fabrikant added varsity soccer coach to his resume this week by officially assuming the job when he couldn’t find a suitable replacement for the departed Meredith Underhill. Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Fabrikant said he talked to four people, including two parents, but none could make the time commitment necessary for the Phoenix program.

“It was crunch time, so I spoke to the girls,” Fabrikant said, “and they begged me to stay on.”

Fabrikant, who also coaches TSA’s boys basketball team, is no stranger to the soccer sidelines. He’s guided the Sharon junior varsity boys for two stints covering four years. The Phoenix lost just two games over Fabrikant’s most-recent two-year run.

Sharon began fall practices on Monday.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.