By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

Jade Bath may be new to the role of athletic director at Roaring Fork High School, but she’s been a Ram since she was young.

As an elementary schooler in the ’90s, she helped the boys’ basketball team as a water girl. She watched her older sister play, then joined the team herself in high school and remembers joking with Larry “Shorty” Williams about coming back and taking over. When she graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango five years ago, she jumped straight back in as a coach. That set her up for a part time athletic secretary and counselor, and ultimately for the top job.

“It’s a dream job for me,” she said. “I love sports. I love being around the kids, and I’m getting to know all the teams — not just the basketball girls.”

Before you worry, Marty Nieslanik is sticking around as a game manager after deciding the part time gig was too much to balance with ranch work. Bath will be able to cobble together a full time position by keeping her old role, as well, even if it technically means she’s her own secretary.

“It all goes hand in hand anyway,” she said. “You really need somebody in the building all the time.”

Bath hopes, nevertheless, to keep a good work/life balance and avoid the burnout others have experienced.

“It does have a turnover rate,” she observed. “We went down to a conference and there were 80 new ADs.”

A few long days will be worth it, though, if it helps stoke school spirit for students and others.

“When athletics are booming, you see the community come behind us,” she said. “I don’t think people understand how much that support means. An athlete at RFHS really is kind of a small town hero.”

That doesn’t mean winning every game. Instead, Bath would like to see students be ambassadors to the town, and see the kind of attendance and pride she remembers as a kid in return.

Additionally, Far from being a potential conflict with academic responsibilities, Bath views athletics as an motivator and a learning experience.

“It teaches kids how to work together and keep their heads up if things aren’t going their way,” she said.

As for this year’s outlook, there’s a lot of new potential.

“They’re gonna be young, but every team goes through their rebuilding years,” Bath said.

There’s a fresh crop of Nieslaniks, she noted, who among other promising athletes understand the school’s deep athletic traditions.

Despite fears that there wouldn’t be a football team, a 22-person roster is enough to support at least a varsity program.

“We have enough kids to fill the team. Now we just have to keep them healthy,” Bath said. “If we get even just five more kids come out the first day of school, we might be able to have JV.”

Returning seniors include Ruben Gomez, Spencer Ochko, Jose Rico and Durga Reed. They’ll get some assistance from soccer veterans Jorge Sandoval and Ariahn Barajas, both juniors, who plan to do both.

The soccer team also sports seniors Edwin Candela and Jaciel Carillo, as well as Juniors Joe Salinas, Max Candela and Aiden Sloan for a good balance of experience and new energy. With 41 team members thus far, it’s proving to be the most popular fall sport.

“They always make it to at least the first round of the postseason,” Bath noted.

As for volleyball, “it’s really a whole new team,” she said. We just have to get them transitioned and ready for varsity play.”

There are also several Roaring Fork students taking advantage of Basalt athletics. Look for Megan Nieslanik, Morgan Needham and Maya Lindgren on the softball team, Jasper Germain and Drew Broadhurst playing golf and Lilly Peery, William Luckett and Makenzie Maker running cross country for their erstwhile rivals.

“It’s pretty cool to watch them play together,” Bath said.