The unification of East Wake High from four schools into one is expected to yield dividends throughout the Warriors’ athletic program.
For the first time since 2005, every student at East Wake is part of one and only one student body this fall. The change was initiated primarily based on academics, but coaches throughout the school are also praising the benefits of a unified high school on the success of and the support for East Wake sports.
“There’s going to be one whole school with one goal, one emphasis on supporting and promoting all of the championships of the school, whether academic or athletic,” said head football coach John Poulnott. “There’s going to be more accountability in the leadership of our team, making sure teammates are actively doing the right thing.”
The hope is that the new consolidated format will improve player chemistry, team logistics and fan support.
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Teammates previously separated during the school day will now be able to spend more time bonding off the field.
Coaches will be able to simplify communication with the entirety of their rosters now all part of a singular student body.
Students may feel more unified school spirit and therefore be more likely to attend athletic events.
Boys’ basketball coach Gerald Melton, who coached for 14 years under a single-school system at Bunn before coming to East Wake last year, has seen both ends of the spectrum. He didn’t hesitate to point out a number of problems he noticed after arriving in Wendell.
“We had to work on some team issues because kids were spread out. They may not have even seen each other during the day,” Melton said of the four-school format. “You had different views on things from kids from different schools. As a coach and teacher myself, you were separate – there were people in other schools you just didn’t associate or communicate with.”
Maintaining and monitoring academic standards for athletes also proved to be difficult.
Melton said he, at times, not only didn’t know how his players were doing in class but also didn’t even know if they were in class. Poulnott, meanwhile, noted that it will be nice to not have to go in “four different directions” to track player eligibility.
Girls’ basketball coach Toni Vick, however, stressed that she didn’t notice any complications within her team as a result of the four-school system. She’s hoping nevertheless that the changes will enhance a community aura surrounding East Wake athletics.
While athletic director Jon Hasbrouck said he didn’t view the previous four-school system as a hindrance on athletics, he sees improved interaction as a strong positive effect of the new system.
“We definitely hope there’s (going to be) more parent involvement with our athletic programs,” he said. “We’ve centered on trying to get kids involved over the summer. I think there’s going to be more communication among our students and our parents.”
New Principal Stacey Alston, who is taking over essentially four jobs, has brought a novel and greater athletic focus to the school.
“Athletics set a very positive tone for the high school environment,” Alston said. “One of the things that a lot of kids remember are the big football games (like) homecoming. The transition I think has been great for school spirit and morale.”
Poulnott is a fan of Alston’s commitment to improving East Wake sports.
“(We’re) bringing in a principal that understands the importance of athletics in creating a great environment as a school,” Poulnott said. “As a past coach, (Alston) has a great understanding about the trials each program goes through. He understands the finances and how important it is to have the school support the program.”
During the summer offseason, East Wake focused on filling open coaching positions by hiring employees who will work as both teachers during the day and athletic coaches after school.
“Hopefully, seeing coaches in the classroom will bring out more awareness of our athletic programs,” Hasbrouck said.
For the following nine months of athletics at East Wake, coaches throughout the school are hoping that the consolidated format will make the grind just a bit smoother.
“Now there will be more awareness of who’s on the team,” Melton said. “We can have more team spirit. I’ll know who my players’ teachers are. I think (the change) will definitely have a good effect.”