High Schools: New Gerstell AD 'ready,' 'prepared'

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The athletic director's position at Gerstell Academy is definitely a young person's job.

Cap Poklemba became the youngest athletic director in the state at 24 when he took the position in 2004.

Now, he's being succeeded by Christine Hryzak. She's 27 and is also starting out as one of Maryland's youngest ADs.

"There are people who will look at me and question me being in my 20s and whether I have enough experience to do the job," Hryzak said. "I have a national certification. I am a certified athletic administrator. I have been taught, trained and exposed to a lot of different scenarios in education.

"The amount of different people and mentors I have worked with have really helped to give me opportunities," she added. "They enabled me to experience things firsthand and have taught me through their experiences. I couldn't feel more ready and prepared for this opportunity."

Luckily for Hryzak, who begins her new position July 1, she'll have Poklemba to lean on as a resource. He's stepping down after 13 years on the job, but will remain at the school as the varsity baseball coach and physical education teacher.

"Having my mentor right down the hallway will be incredible for that transition," Hryzak said.

Poklemba is ready to help, and then some.

"I tell her all the time, 'You're are a lifelong learner,'" he said. "It took me seven years to get to where I knew what I was doing. I tell her, 'Let me know if you have any question or if there is anything I can do for you.'"

Poklemba says he is obviously very confident in her new position.

Hryzak started out as an administrative assistant to athletics. The school promoted her twice in the past year.

"She has some fantastic ideas and tons of energy," he said. "The kids really like her, and she does a great job of mentoring the kids and keeping them on the right track of what we do here at Gerstell."

Hryzak said she wanted to be an athletic director because of the opportunity to continue to work with coaches and student athletes.

She's already done a lot of both and excelled as athlete in college and high school.

Hryzak played soccer, basketball and lacrosse at Mynderse Academy in New York and competed in equestrian events outside of school.

She participated in crew at Loyola University Maryland and played club basketball and soccer. Hryzak has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Loyola, and a Master's in Leadership Teaching from Notre Dame University of Maryland.

At Gerstell, she coached middle school girls basketball after serving as a varsity girls soccer, varsity girls basketball and assistant boys basketball coach at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.

"Since I have been in high school, athletics have shaped my whole world," Hryzak explained. "I have really enjoyed the transition to the other side at Gerstell. "The opportunity to continue to mentor our students and coaches is something I am really looking forward to."

Hryzak is facing a mountain of responsibilities — creating budgets, hiring coaches, working with student athletes, and scheduling games and buses, among other duties.

Atop Hryzak's wish list is increasing participation in the school's athletic booster club.

"It's we absolutely something we want to continue to add, build and tweak," she said. "We started one this year. It's been a slow process getting one started."

Hryzak is excited that the Falcons will be joining Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland in the fall.

"I can't wait to be part of that league, and to really push our girls into championships and the next avenue," Hryzak said. "Being in a conference is a great opportunity for them. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and we are here to compete at a serious level."

Poklemba said Gerstell's girls teams wouldn't be ready for official IAAM

Hryzak won't hesitate to seek Poklemba out for advice. Poklemba, for his part, said his family was the overriding factor in his decision to leave his post.

"I started the program here with about 15 kids," Poklemba said. "We have grown to a great athletic program, but it was time for me to go. I have two 8-year-old kids and a baby on the way. I want to spend some time with my family."

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