High School Sports: A successful path's end for WM's Walker

Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Craig Walker felt strongly it was finally time to go.

After 30 years in education, and 17 years as an athletic director — the past two at Winters Mill, and before that at Century and Francis Scott Key — Walker is retiring.

He says his experience at Winters Mill has been tremendous.

"It took a while to make the decision," Walker said. "But I just think the timing was right for me to step away and for them to get some new blood in there to run the athletic program."

Walker, a Gettysburg resident, cited changes in the athletic director's job descriptions as one of the factors in his decision.

In essence, it is becoming more administrative, he said.

Walker, this year's Maryland State Athletic Directors Association's Athletic Director of the Year for District 1B (Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties), simply doesn't want to spend the majority of his time sitting in an office doing paperwork. He prefers getting his hands dirty.

"I'm not opposed to the change," said Walker, who is being replaced by Jen Gosselin. "It just doesn't fit my expectations, personality or needs. I like to be hands-on. I get all the fields ready. I mow the grass and line the fields. I get the court ready for basketball games in the winter. I get the chairs ready and set the tables up. But I think they'd rather have somebody else doing all that now."

Walker, 59, plans to keep busy.

For the past two years he has worked at The Links at Gettysburg in the golf shop full-time in the summer and on weekends during the school year. Now, he's considering additional full-time work opportunities.

"I'm looking at private schools in different capacities with them," Walker said. "I'm also looking at local universities to see if there are some positions available. I have a couple of things on the burner right now."

Walker left his biggest mark at Century, where he served as the school's first AD from 2001, the year it opened, until 2006. Walker earned his first MSADA Athletic Director of the Year honor in 2006.

The Knights won five Class 2A state championships, including two in girls soccer (2002 and 2003), girls lacrosse (2004 and 2006) and boys soccer (2003), during his tenure.

"Craig set the path and outcome for success here at Century," said Century athletic director Randy Pentz, who replaced Walker. "Craig did an outstanding job. He has a personality that leads to a positive environment. He gets more out of people by working with people. He's a good communicator and a good collaborator."

Walker believes that the challenges he faced at Century in a building a new sports program from the ground up is what prepared him for his later stints as athletic director. Between his time at Century and Winters Mill, he served in the same capacity at FSK from 2006 to 2015.

"Becoming an athletic director for the first time was pretty intense," he recalled. "I learned a lot and found out how it works very quickly. I walked in there with nothing and had to order everything from knee pads and helmets for football to baseballs and everything right on down the line. Every single sport you can think of, we had to start from zero."

Walker, who earned All-Conference honors in football and also played baseball at then-Western Maryland College, coached plenty of sports in Carroll County.

He worked at North Carroll as a defensive coordinator in football (10 years), golf coach (three years), and baseball coach (three years) after three-year stints at FSK as girls basketball coach, JV baseball coach, and assistant football coach.

"He had that presence about him that people could just open up and talk to him about anything," said Gosselin, who coached girls basketball and track and field at FSK when Walker was AD there. "That made it easy for coaches to work with him and for him to work with coaches and student athletes. He was always willing to help and always wanted the best for the students and the school."

Gosselin likely thinks of Walker more as an AD than a coach. She said she may reach out to him in her new job, which starts July 1.

"It's always tough, and obviously I'm not planning on replacing him," Gosselin said. "They are big shoes to fill. I learned a lot of ways to deal with certain situations and issues by watching him. When somebody's been around that long, they obviously leave an impression. His is very positive, and he has a lot of respect around the county."

tworgo@baltsun.com

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