Nelson tabbed as new St. Clairsville athletic director

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY ST. CLAIRSVILLE formally approved Luke Nelson (second from the left) as its new director of athletics during the monthly school board meeting held Wednesday morning. From left are board of education member Mike Jacob, Nelson, board of education member Jim Cook and St. Clairsville Richland City Schools Superintendent Dr. Walt Skaggs.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Having played and coached at St. Clairsville High School, Luke Nelson understands what the athletics mean to the school and community.

Nelson will now have the opportunity to serve as the leader of the athletic department for at least the next three years.

By virtue of a 5-0 vote at Wednesday morning’s monthly board of education meeting, Nelson was formally hired as the next director of athletics at St. Clairsville High School and awarded a three-year contract.

“I am very excited about this opportunity and anxious to get started,” Nelson said. “I’ve been motivated to step up and join our administrative team, which is comprised of professional and quality people. I just want to do my part in helping to make the (high school) experience for our students and families the best that it can be.”

Nelson will officially take over this summer when current athletics director Kelly Rine retires after a 13-year tenure with the Red Devils and a total of 28 years in athletic administration.

“I realize I have huge shoes to fill,” Nelson said. “Kelly is the best athletic director in the state of Ohio. He’s definitely set the bar high and I am glad he’s done so. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I realize the huge responsibility ahead, but I am excited to start pursuing that.”

Rine informed St. Clairsville Superintendent Dr. Walt Skaggs of his impending retirement before the turn of the calendar year. The position drew wide-ranging interest. Skaggs then spearheaded a committee to find his replacement.

Though Nelson, who currently teaches broadcast journalism and video production at Belmont-Harrison Career Center, won’t have a lot of time to shadow Rine, he’s been working with his predecessor for several years in multiple capacities.

Nelson, who owns a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty and a master’s from Ohio State, worked from 2005-07 as a varsity assistant track coach and from 2005-07 held the head coaching position of the boys’ soccer team. While working outside of the educational world, Nelson was away from coaching, but returned in 2014 as an assistant boys’ soccer coach.

“I’ve been working under Kelly for the last eight years whether it was as a coach or working at the stadium for different events with production,” Nelson said.

Though he plans to begin picking Rine’s brain as soon as possible to help ease the transition process, Nelson also pointed out that he still has to complete his teaching duties for the remainder of the school year.

“I have to finish that role in trying to be the best teacher that I can be,” Nelson said. “I have an obligation to the school and my students.”

Nelson is taking over an athletic program that’s achieved great success both locally, regionally and at the state level.

Some of the highlights include winning the 2016 Division II state track and field championship, finishing state runnerup in football in 2012, state runnerup in girls’ cross country in 2009, advancing to the 2012 Division II boys basketball state tournament, 2012 state golf tournament, seven consecutive state cheering titles and 11 consecutive OVAC Class 4A overall championships.

“The success we’ve had at St. Clairsville is what pushes me,” Nelson said. “I want us to continue to chase perfection and be the best we can be. Being able to continue that run of success provides motivation to me. That success is something I always want to see us have.”

On top of the on-field success, the Red Devils have greatly improved their facilities, but work remains in that area, too. Red Devil Stadium is state-of-the-art, but there is just one gymnasium available, making scheduling a challenge at times.

“No matter what you’re talking about, you can never be content,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s the facilities, quality of coaches, community support, etc., we should always be looking to continue to raise the bar and that’s a priority for me.”

One of the first items of business on Nelson’s to-do-list is to make sure all of his coaches know they have his full support.

“I want the coaches to know we’re all in this together,” Nelson said. “Together has always been a St. Clairsville model and it will continue to be.”

Nelson, who will be stepping away from his coaching duties, believes his passion to see all of the teams and athletes thrive is one of his best characteristics.

“Though listening seems like a simple thing to do, folks who listen are becoming a rarity,” Nelson said. “I believe helping, caring and listening are big factors in everyone achieving success. I have a passion for all of those things.”

Luke and his wife, Jami, who is also a teacher and coach in the St. Clairsville school district, have an infant daughter, Rylee, who is almost eight months old.

“The support I’ve received from my wife and my entire family is what really enabled me to take on more responsibility and a bigger role. I look at this as a great opportunity not just for me, but for my entire family and it’s one I don’t take lightly.”