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Midvale Journal

New path set for Hillcrest sports teams

Jun 28, 2018 11:02AM ● By Julie Slama

John Olsen, pictured here coaching the 2012 cross country team, will step down from the athletic director position in July to allow the team of Sally Williams and Joshua Griffel to oversee Hillcrest’s sports teams.

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This year marks a year of firsts for Hillcrest High athletics. It’s a year where the ground was broken for the first athletic fieldhouse as part of the entire school rebuild. It’s a year when several new coaches are being hired to coach the Husky student-athletes. And it’s a year when an athletic administrative team of Sally Williams and Joshua Griffel will replace the current athletic director. 

Hillcrest Athletic Director John Olsen isn’t going far — just down the hall, in fact — but he also will be new to the position of international baccaulerate director at the school. 

“I’ve coached and been the AD during my 12 years here and have been in the classroom and on the field and court for the students,” he said. “But it was during my son’s wrestling match that I realized I want to be more involved in his and my daughter’s athletic careers.” 

Olsen has been a part of the cross country, track, basketball and Unified soccer coaching teams, advised the Latinos in Action, taught classes and has been the athletic director for the past four years. 

“I’ve been involved in athletics my whole life, and I’ve liked talking to the students outside of the field and court about their games or meets. I’ve had a lot of proud moments as a coach,” he said, adding that a highlight was the 2007 cross country season, his first as head coach, where the boys team beat Brighton High by one point to advance to state after 11 years of not qualifying. 

Another highlight was hiring Cazzie Brown, Hillcrest’s head football coach, who unexpectedly died at the beginning of last fall. 

“He was a good friend and breath of fresh air here. He was the right fit for our football program — and helped lead all our students,” Olsen said.

Olsen said that the athletic teams are doing well, with the boys’ varsity basketball team reaching the final four last year, and this year, the sophomore boys’ basketball team finished 18-1 (under Olsen himself). 

“I’m not walking away completely, but I just won’t be at as many events,” he said. “I’ll still keep track of what’s going on. I can’t quit cold turkey,.”. 

Olsen will step down from his coaching duties — at least for now — after taking members of the school’s state champion division II and runner-up division I unified soccer team to represent Utah at the USA Special Olympic Games this July in Seattle. 

His next step is to build the IB program, which currently involves about 115 juniors and seniors. 

“I’ve been around the IB program since the 1980s, so I’m familiar with it,” said Olsen, who also has taught IB Spanish. “I want to see more students be involved in it and have it be a positive path for them.” 

That positivity is part of what Principal Greg Leavitt also wants for the IB program. 

“John Olsen has been the man that is able to pull so many parts of HHS together,” he said. “Teachers, students and parents all respect his fairness to students and the many activities he coordinates. John is a student advocate wanting all students to succeed to their highest capacity.” 

Head cross country and track coach Scott Stucki said that he has appreciated Olsen as AD and looks forward to working with Williams and Griffel. 

“I will miss working closely with John,” he said. “We started coaching together in 2007.”

Senior cross country and track runner and jumper Grace Cobabe will fondly remember Olson’s support. 

“I am grateful to our athletic director, coach Olson, who would always announce and cheer us on at home meets and our region championships,” she said. 

Teacher Sam Richins, who just recently stepped down as head boys basketball coach, said he believes under the new ADs, the “boys basketball team will continue to get to the tourney to find success.” 

The boys’ basketball team will fall under Griffel’s responsibilities along with swimming, golf, football, baseball, wrestling, boys’ soccer and unified soccer. Williams will be over tennis, track, volleyball, girls’ soccer, girls’ basketball, softball, cross country, drill and support cheer. Scott Carroll will assist both ADs. 

“I’m excited for the new field house and facilities we’ll have across the board for our athletic teams,” said Griffel, who not only has taught social studies, but has been on the school’s football coaching staff and been a student government adviser. “John Olsen has set the bar really high, and I want to keep on building upon our successes and support our programs. I’m here to listen, understand, communicate and support our students and address any issues.” 

He also wants to continue to emphasize Brown’s unifying motto: “One pack, one goal.” 

“I want us to envision that, not just be individuals in sports, but as an athletic department and as a school,” Griffel said. “Our field house will be part of that. It will help our PE department with classes, but also it will be an indoor facility for many spring sports and have additional space for our winter sports. It will be a facility to rival any in the state.”

In the meantime, Williams, who has been Hillcrest’s volleyball coach in the past and has been on the coaching staff for girls basketball and softball at Woods Cross High, said that they are working with Olsen to identify neighborhood fields and courts for the fall sports. Many of the school’s current athletic fields are being torn up to make room for the new facility, which has plans for an indoor track, a full-size soccer field and two gymnasiums, should be completed in the fall of 2020. 

“I think the new field house really will get kids excited and motivate them to be athletes,” she said. “It will modernize our facilities and create a positive atmosphere.” 

Williams said she also would like to build the school’s weight training program so as a result, students are learning how to prevent injuries rather than recovering from them. She’d also like to see student-athletes learn to build confidence, develop a stronger mental state and become school leaders. 

“I’m excited for our student-athletes at Hillcrest,” she said. “It’s a bright future.”