BELEN — As each school year ends, there’s always the question of who’s coming back to coach next year.
At Belen High School, seven positions will have new faces come August.
While that number might seem high, four of the coaches who are leaving arguably weren’t expected to stay past the end of this season.
According to Belen Consolidated Schools athletic coordinator Josh Grine — who is moving on to be St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe’s athletic director after a year with BCS — cheer coach Nina Olivas, boys soccer coach Jose Duran and tennis coach Chrissy Cordova, have all resigned because they had a child in the program who graduated this year.
“Several of the coaches had athletes who were seniors and only wanted to coach during their career,” Grine said. “Most of these changes are for normal reasons, especially in smaller towns and small schools. This is happening across the state; I get emails daily. It seems like we’re not the only ones searching.
“I think we are getting in new coaches, with new ideas. I think our programs will be refreshed.”
Grine called the move to St. Mike’s an amazing opportunity he couldn’t pass up. The school has a lot of ideas and initiatives that fit with his own approach to student athletics, he said, including the Positive Coaches Alliance, a training program that’s starting to take off in New Mexico, with SMHS being one of the first schools to adopt.
“I’ve had these aspirations, so it’s nice to go to a place that wants the same thing,” he said. “St. Mike’s is one of those traditional powerhouse schools, so this is an exciting opportunity.”
The move will also put him closer to his son and cut down on commuting, he said.
The BHS cheer and tennis positions are still open. Edgar Lopez-Ramos has been hired as the boys soccer head coach.
Swim coach Mary Batista is also stepping down after a year with the program, but Grine said she took the position only for last season because the district couldn’t find a coach prior to competition beginning. Linred Onsae will lead the program next year.
Onsae brings more than 15 years of head swimming coach experience to BHS. He served as the head coach at Los Lunas High School on two different occasions — 1997 to 1999 and 2003 to 2016. Onsae also served as the head swimming coach for Tidal Wave Swim from 2016 to 2018.
“Belen is fortunate to welcome a coach with many years of head coaching experience,” said Grine in a recent press release.
Other departures include girls basketball coach Chris Story, wrestling coach Lee Chaves and football coach Andrew McCraw.
Chaves retired from teaching last year, and made the commute from Rio Rancho to lead the Eagles for one more season, Grine said, and is now retiring from wrestling.
The wrestling team will be led by former assistant coach Nick Sanchez.
Sam Gavaldon has been hired as head coach of the girls basketball team.
Gavaldon spent the previous six seasons as head coach of the girls basketball team at Cottonwood Classic Prep School in Albuquerque. Gavaldon amassed a career record of 40-93 during his time at CCPS, including a 10-12 record last season.
During his 17 years coaching, Gavaldon has also coached at Albuquerque Academy, Menaul and Evangel Christian, where he took new programs and established a foundation for basketball.
Gavaldon replaces Storey, who was let go by BHS in March following a 1-25 season.
Last Thursday, Belen High School head football coach Andrew McCraw tendered his resignation after a year leading the program to take the head coach position at Clovis High School.
McCraw said he really enjoyed his time in Belen.
“Sometimes an opportunity knocks and you have to answer the call. I’ll miss working with the kids. I’m proud of the effort the kids gave,” McCraw said. “The effort was phenomenal. I was really impressed with the work they put in on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.
“There’s never a right time to leave. Sometimes we’re led in a direction we don’t anticipate.”
The Eagles football program has cycled through three coaches since 2019.
Prior to McCraw was Phil Lopez, who had a brief six-week stint as the head of the program in May 2021. Lopez replaced Ty House, who coached the Eagles for the two seasons before. House resigned in April 2021 in anticipation of a move to Texas.
Lopez-Ramos will enter his first season as head coach of the Belen Eagles boys’ soccer program. He is a teacher with Belen Consolidated Schools, and brings coaching experience from both Belen and Los Lunas high schools.
Most recently Lopez-Ramos served as the junior varsity head coach for the Los Lunas Tigers program. He brings plenty of knowledge about the game of soccer, along with 12 years of experience as an educator, Grine said.
“We are excited to welcome all the new head coaches to Belen High School. Each coach brings years of coaching experience at the high school level, understand the New Mexico Activities Association requirements and know the traditions of Belen High School,” Grine said in the same release. “We are excited and can’t wait to weave their chapter into the Belen Eagles campus. All come highly recommend from previous coaching stints and provide excitement to the direction of athletics in Belen.”
Grine said it was sad to be leaving BCS, but the 2021-22 school year was a memorable one.
“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Eagles this year,” Grine said.
He recounted the athletic accomplishments of this past year, which included district players earning two state individual golf championships and a boys basketball final four appearance, both of which were led by head coach Donald Marquez.
“We also had a state runner up with our tennis team and head coach Chrissy Cordova. Football reached the quarterfinals, winning a playoff game under Andrew McCraw,” the athletic director said. “Although my time was short in Belen, I believe we made plenty of positive steps forward.”
2022-23 BHS retained coaches
- Donald Marquez, boys basketball and golf
- Joe Duran, softball
- Thomas Wisneski, baseball
- Jared Schmock, track and field
- Fernando Sisneros, cross country
- Victoria Spragg, volleyball
- Ernest Gonzales, girls soccer
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.