By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Andy Sweet is preparing to take over the largest high school athletics program in the state.
Sweet, 45, a math teacher and a volleyball and track assistant coach at Clovis High for the past two years, has been hired as athletic director at Rio Rancho High School. He starts his new duties April 3.
Sweet has spent the last nine years at CHS — one year as assistant principal and six as principal before returning to the classroom in 2004.
“I was ready to get back into administration,” Sweet said. “I don’t regret the time I’ve spent in the classroom one little bit, but I felt a calling to move back into administration.
“After spending time (discussing it) with the family, we decided this would be good for us, and hopefully it will be good for (Rio Rancho).”
He will replace Gary Hveem, who is retiring.
Rio Rancho has grown to a community of around 69,000. The high school opened in 1997, and the enrollment for grades 9-12 in the district is now around 3,500.
Rio Rancho principal Richard von Ancken, the chairman of a 13-member selection committee, said Sweet was impressive in his presentation. Six candidates were interviewed. Sweet was selected from three finalists.
“We were very pleased with his expertise and level of experience,” von Ancken said. “He seemed to be intelligent and quick on his responses.”
Clovis volleyball coach Darrel Ray said he enjoyed working with Sweet, whose daughter Tarrah was the Lady Wildcats’ setter last season as a freshman.
“Andy is a born leader,” Ray said. “He approaches things in a very organized fashion. He’s the kind of guy you like to work with because once you delegated something to him, you knew it would get done.”
Ray said Sweet could provide an emotional lift when the team needed it.
“He’d jump in the middle of the huddle and get everyone fired up,” Ray said. “If the kids looked like they needed a little fire, it wasn’t hard for him to find the match.”
Gary Heron, sports editor of the Rio Rancho Observer newspaper and a member of the selection committee, said Sweet earned a lot of support during the process.
“Of the 13 members on the committee, six had him as the No. 1 candidate,” Heron said. “It seemed like he had answers that were well thought out, and he seemed to have his priorities in order.”
Heron said he had written a somewhat humorous column recently that Rio Rancho “should be more like Clovis, except for the wind and the railroads,” referring to the school’s relative athletic success.
“I thought Mr. Sweet might be able to covey some of that out here,” Heron said.
A native of Durango, Colo., Sweet said he originally moved his family to this area to be closer to the family of his wife, Diana, a Portales native.
“I’ll be getting closer to some mountains again for a little bit,” Sweet said.
The district will add a second high school, scheduled to open in the 2009-10 school year.
In addition to Tarrah, the Sweets have two sons — Jonathan, who will graduate from CHS in May, and David, currently a fifth-grader.