The woman who led the St. Mary’s High School athletic program during 28 championships, and poured herself so tirelessly into the Saints athletics that she was as present as the fleur-de-lis, is leaving.
Allison Fondale is stepping down as Saints athletic director, a post she’s held since 2014. School president Dr. Andrew Moore broke the news to St. Mary’s parents and community on Tuesday, and hinted at an “exciting new opportunity in athletic leadership.”
“Mrs. Fondale is leaving at a moment when St. Mary’s is thriving athletically, with five Varsity championships in 2022-23 and a school record 42 athletes (more than 1/3 of the senior class) going on to play college sports,” Moore said in a release. “She leaves our athletic program well-positioned for tremendous success in the years ahead.”
A former lacrosse coach at the Naval Academy, Ohio University, Maryland and Duke, and a graduate of Atholton High and Loyola University, Fondale had few ties to the school that often passes down from one generation to the next. But it didn’t take long for her to become a member of the family. The community embraced her, she said, and she’s never forgotten how grateful she felt. “I’m the lucky one,” she said.
“I really have been so blessed to be with working with great people and my immediate staff of Jason [Budroni], Patti [Gateau] and [athletic trainer] Ryan Brown — they’re like family to me,” Fondale said. “The varsity head coaches, it was emotional. We’ve known each other and I have such respect for what they do and how hard they work.”
Under her watch, St. Mary’s teams accrued its more than two dozen MIAA/IAAM conference titles in 14 varsity sports in the last nine seasons: six in boys swimming (2015-2019, 2023), three in football (2017, 2018, 2022) and girls soccer (2014, 2015, 2017), two in boys basketball (2022, 2023), girls indoor track (2022, 2023), baseball (2014, 2015), girls swimming (2015, 2016) and wrestling (2018, 2019), and one in volleyball (2019), boys lacrosse (2015), sailing (2019), girls basketball (2023), field hockey (2018) and girls cross country (2018).
She guided the school through the pandemic and increased athlete participation at the school by 7% by 2020. She was named Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland Athletic Director of the Year in 2018, the Maryland State Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association in 2020, and was given the State Award of Merit in 2022 by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
None of those awards are honors Fondale would consider her own, but rather, the product of the coaches she hired. It’s their awards, from newspaper recognition to league to even her own school. Fondale started the St. Mary’s Coach of the Year award three years ago. Under her, several coaches have led their teams to ascension to the A Conference, most recently girls basketball and track and field.
“To see the amount of coaches really rise up and grow and get acknowledged is something that’s been a great honor for me,” Fondale said.
Fondale, who oversees 36 varsity, junior varsity and freshman-sophomore teams, had served on the Executive Committee of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland for six years, having previously served as vice president, and then president for the last two years. She’s served on the Executive Committee of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association for two years as well and as the swimming sports chair in that time.
One of her crowning achievements was starting a mentoring program for new athletic directors so that those just starting with the overwhelming task of guiding three dozen athletic programs can have as much help as possible. Fondale said she spoke with the director today and that she fully intends to keep providing aid to the program.
She also created SAIL, a leadership program for St. Mary’s student-athletes, which will also continue beyond Fondale.
Fondale’s last day will be Sept. 27. Football coach and assistant athletic director Jason Budroni will serve as interim athletic director in the meantime.
“Our fall coaches are experienced and I know they’re all going to support each other as they’ve been supportive of me,” Fondale said. “His football staff will have to support him more and I know they’ll do that. We’re going to do as much prep as we can to make it smooth for everyone.”