Gail Purcell has been named athletic director at Centennial High School beginning next fall, replacing the retiring Jim Welsch, who has held the position at the Ellicott City school since it opened 20 years ago.

Purcell joins Wilde Lake's Carol Satterwhite as the only women athletic directors in Howard County. Satterwhite, who was the first women athletic director in the state, has been athletic director at Wilde Lake for 25 years.

Purcell, a 1970 graduate of Howard High, has coached varsity field hockey (20 years), varsity basketball (seven years) and lacrosse (nine years) at Centennial. Her 1981 basketball team and 1996 field hockey team won state titles. She was named The Sun's metro Coach of the Year in field hockey in 1996 as the Eagles became the first Howard County school to win a state title in that sport. Purcell will continue to coach field hockey.

"Gail brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this new role," Centennial principal Lynda Mitic said. "Her performance as a teacher and her winning record as a coach, with regional and state championships to her credit, attest to her own accomplishments and to the skill, discipline and determination she develops in her teams.

"She is dedicated to the goal of maintaining Centennial's strong athletic programs and winning traditions, but at the same time is anticipating changes in some areas to strengthen our programs even more."

Welsch has overseen the most successful overall sports program in the county and one of the best in the state. The Eagles have won 104 county championships, 84 region titles and 28 state championships.

"When you look at all the accomplishments, I've got some big shoes to fill," Purcell said. "Jim has done a tremendous job."

Welsch said the program has been successful for a number of reasons. "Good coaches, good kids, a community that has shown outstanding interest and support and six principals that have supported our programs," Welsch said.

Welsch, who grew up in the Hamilton area of Baltimore City, is a 1960 graduate of McDonogh. He attended Springfield (Mass.) College, where he met Anita, his wife of 33 years. He taught and coached for two years at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in Hamilton, Mass., then moved to Northwestern High in Baltimore City. At Northwestern, Welsch coached varsity football and JV basketball for 10 years. He also coached baseball and golf.

Welsch was among a group of teachers hired by Centennial principal Angelo Fortunato in 1977 who still coach today: boys lacrosse coach Mike Siegert, cross country and track coach Al Dodds and Purcell. Welsch, a physical education teacher, was hired as athletic director and football coach.

Welsch coached the football team for five years, the first on the JV level. In his fourth year the Eagles reached the state playoffs, the only football team at Centennial to do so. Welsch also coached girls outdoor track for one year and girls JV soccer for 13 seasons.

Welsch, 54, said he will miss "the people. You can't forget all the people you've rubbed elbows with for 20 years."

Welsch officially will retire in October, but will not return to Centennial in the fall. He and Anita, who is retiring in June as an elementary teacher in the Baltimore County school system, plan to move to the Ocean City area, where Welsch's parents reside. Satterwhite was glad to hear of Purcell's appointment. "I think she'll do a very good job," Satterwhite said. "She's very conscientious and professional."

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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