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A life lived in sports

Mike Sanderson, the only AD in Westview's history, is ready to retire
by: Miles Vance, IN HIS ELEMENT — Westview athletic director Mike Sanderson will retire at the end of the 2011-12 school year after spending 18 years as Westview’s first — and to date, only — athletic director.

ROCK CREEK - In the 18 years that Westview High School has been open, Mike Sanderson never served as the head coach of a Wildcat varsity team.

He didn't build Westview's grand gymnasium, nor did he lay down a single strip of artificial turf on the school's football and soccer field.

Further, Sanderson had no part in handing out baseballs or footballs, nor in taping ankles or warming whirlpools for the thousands of athletes who have passed through Westview's halls since it opened back in the fall of 1994.

But Sanderson, 59, who will soon conclude his run as Westview's first and only athletic director, was there for all of it. And more than any other single person, Sanderson has left his signature on Wildcat athletics.

He made sure the Wildcats had coaches, in many cases, some of the state's best. He helped forward the plan that created Westview's gym, as well as its other top-notch facilities, and he worked to make sure that the Wildcats' stadium field joined the artificial turf world along with the rest of the Beaverton School District's high schools. In addition, he made sure that equipment was there when it was needed, uniforms were purchased and schedules were filled, as well as a million other small details that helped create lasting and positive memories for Westview's many high school athletes.

Now, however, he's ready for the next stage of his life. Sanderson said that in retirement, he will spend more time with his wife of 37 years, Diana, and also offer more assistance in caring for his 97-year-old father who lives in Sequim, Wash. He will continue to assist with the Wildcat varsity football team in the fall.

'It's about family first. My dad is getting up there in years and I want to be there to help care for him,' said Sanderson, whose mother died in March. 'It's that and just being able to spend time with Diana. (Westview boys basketball coach) Pat Coons and I have talked for years about how blessed we are with wives who understand our hours.'

He's also looking forward to spending more time with his daughters Chelsea, 28, and Courtney, 21, themselves both Westview High grads who also coach volleyball at Westview.

Sanderson, who will give way to incoming AD Rob Casteel - he's been head track coach at Westview since 2006 and previously served as head coach of the Aloha football team through 2004 - at the end of this school year, has no regrets about the decision, though he still enjoys the day-to-day grind of making Wildcat athletics happen.

'I haven't had any second thoughts about it,' Sanderson said. 'I still love the job. I still love working with the coaches, working with kids and administrators. I know I'll miss the people and the daily working of the job.'

That said, Oregon's predictably lousy spring weather - and the overall gray of winter - helped make Sanderson's decision to retire a bit easier.

'I'm looking forward to getting away from the weather that we have from November through the spring,' he said, joking that 'the three things I won't miss are email, March and April.'

Sanderson's retirement will cap a career built on sports and education in the Beaverton School District. It all began with Sanderson's own education - he grew up in Cedar Hills and graduated from Sunset High School, then went to college at Oregon State - and continued with a long professional trek through area schools.

He began his teaching career as a substitute at Highland Park and Cedar Park middle schools, then got his first full-time job teaching social studies at Cedar Park, where he stayed the next eight years. Sanderson began coaching baseball and football at the middle school level right from the get-go, then moved on to teach at Sunset in 1985.

Coaching remained a big part of Sanderson's life at Sunset too, first as an assistant in football and baseball, and later as head baseball coach starting in 1991. It was the success than Sanderson experienced as a teacher and coach at Sunset that paved the way for his future at Westview.

As part of Ron Linehan's football staff, the Apollos won the Metro League title three years in a row and were consistently one of the best teams in the state. Sanderson's baseball teams got it done too, ending his four-year run as head coach by winning the 1994 state championship.

'We had an amazing run in football,' Sanderson said. 'I was really fortunate to be on that staff. We had tons of speed every year and good skill kids.'

Sanderson, who later got his standardized teaching certificate from Portland State and his master's degree in law-related education from Lewis and Clark, kept teaching too. At Sunset, he taught law electives and American Studies as well as Government and Politics, and continued to teach both those subjects when he moved on to Westview. He's also now in his 15th summer of teaching Constitutional Issues at Lewis and Clark.

That said, running the sports programs at Westview has been largest part of Sanderson's professional life for the past 18 years. And what a run it's been, first getting the Wildcats off the ground back in the 1994-95 school year, seeing the Wildcat boys water polo team capture the school's first team state championship in 1998, then its most recent state crown in baseball in 2011.

It isn't particular wins and losses, however, that Sanderson looks to most as he details his successes at Westview. First comes his pride in the people he's surrounded himself with in the athletic department at Westview, starting with longtime athletic secretary Miki Lyle and two of his original hires - Coons and softball coach Ronda McKenzie, both still leading their programs after 18 years.

'I feel really good about the coaching staff we've put together,' Sanderson said. 'This is the most cohesive staff since I've been here. We all have the same priority - putting kids first. I feel good about that.'

The facilities at Westview also provide a sense of accomplishment for Sanderson, who saw each field and court and gym come together literally from the ground up.

'We started at ground zero, and it's been amazing to see how the facilities have grown up around us,' he said. 'And how we've been able to share facilities, and the way the baseball and softball fields have developed, and the (stadium) field.'

Behind the scenes, Sanderson has treasured the time and cooperation he's had from the other athletic directors in the Metro League, first with Beaverton's Nick Robertson, Sunset's Ken Harris and Aloha's Cindy Simmons, and continuing to this day.

'One thing the public is not aware of is the culture we have with the athletic directors in the district, the way we work together for the whole,' he said. 'Sure, people look at their own needs and bring them when we meet. We look at those, but then we look at what's best for the whole because we all benefit from those decisions.'

And finally, Westview's commitment to its student-athletes sits near the top of Sanderson's list of achievements.

'Over the last six years, we've really made a commitment to academics and staying on top of things to keep kids on track,' he said, complimenting the work of Rick Cook and Ed Smith in that effort. 'Starting with ninth graders and helping them balance academics and athletics, understand eligibility requirements, and what it takes to continue that after they graduate.'

While there are a few regrets of things left undone, there are just a few, among those the desire to begin a Westview sports hall of fame, encouraging athletes to participate in multiple sports, and trying to encourage greater attendance at athletic contests.

Bigger than those, however, Sanderson is struggling with his decision to leave at a time when both golf and water polo are trying to secure financing after having been cut from the Beaverton School District's 2012-13 budget.

'It's tough to be leaving when, for the first time in 18 years, we're cutting sports,' he said. 'My hope is that both programs will be able to get the funds together to continue.'

With the groundwork that Sanderson and his fellow ADs have laid over the years, those hopes may well be realized.