Nick Baker named new Lewis-Palmer athletic director

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Nick Baker has been named the new Lewis-Palmer High School athletic director. That word came from Lewis-Palmer principal Sandi Brandl last week.

Baker takes over for the popular Russ McKinstry, who held the position for five years before stepping down in June.

“I start right away,” said Baker, who was told he was the new athletic director while on his honeymoon in Florida. “This is new to me. There are a lot of things I have to study up on.”

Baker, 36, has big shoes to fill. McKinstry oversaw one of the most successful all-around sports programs in the Pikes Peak region. McKinstry’s boys’ basketball team won its second consecutive Class 4A state basketball title in March. The volleyball team was state runner-up last fall. The hockey team won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010 and has made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons. Several other sports have made deep playoff runs in recent years.

“You can’t fix anything that not broken,” Baker said with a smile. “We have experienced coaches here.”

McKinstry has offered to help in Baker’s transition from math teacher and wrestling coach. Baker has been the school’s head wrestling coach since 2007 and would like to remain in that capacity.

“We’re still trying to work that out,” Baker said. “We’ll know more in the next few weeks.”

Baker is one of the more exuberant coaches in any sport. He annually takes his teams on white water rafting trips to build team chemistry, among other things. It is not uncommon to see him jumping out and down during a wrestling match and then hugging, or consoling, his pupils afterwards.

He has produced one state champion in Dan Barringer in 2010. Last year, four of his wrestlers advanced to the state meet. Senior Joseph Glenn had the best finish, placing fifth at 170 pounds.

While he loves the coaching aspect of his career, he has long desired to transition into the administrative side of things.

“I didn’t initially get into teaching to coach,” Baker said. “It fell into place.

“I started the process of getting my principal’s license right away. That took a back seat when I started coaching. Over the years I thought an athletic director would be more fulfilling for me.”

Baker is spending the next few weeks studying up on the by-laws for each sport.

“My focus is getting the fall sports set up,” he said.