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ALUMNI ROLL CALL: RICK MACIAS MADE SPORTS, YOUNG PEOPLE HIS LIFE
On Wednesday, the Pueblo Chieftain-sponsored 2021 Pueblo County High School Sports Awards saw a host of Pueblo School District 60 athletes and coaches recognized for their exemplary efforts during the past year of competition.
At the top of that honored list was a name instantly recognizable to anyone connected to athletics: not only in the District, but throughout Southern Colorado and the state.
Coinciding with his retirement after 36 years of service as a teacher, coach and administrator – the past decade-plus as Athletic Director – Rick Macias was bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was a timely and fitting reward for a man who dedicated his life to the growth of young men and women, especially through the life lessons gained in the athletic competition arena.
From the time he began his educational journey at Bradford Elementary School, athletics became the centerpiece of Mr. Macias life.
“I played every sport when I was a kid. Even soccer,” he said. “When I was in middle school at Risley in the early 1970s, we started a little soccer team and were one of the first teams to play here in Pueblo.
“But football and baseball were my favorites.”
After several shoulder injuries, and inspired by the heroics of the Olympic athletes he followed through his television screen, Mr. Macias began to shift his focus to Track and Field and Cross Country.
At East High School, Mr. Macias was part of an Eagle Track and Field team that twice finished as state runner up.
While a junior at East, Mr. Macias had the opportunity to assist during a Winter Recreation program at his alma mater Risley. During that time, he became close to Physical Education teachers at both Risley and East, and inspired by their work with young athletes, decided to make teaching and coaching his life’s work.
At what was then the University of Southern Colorado, Mr. Macias earned a Physical Education teaching credential while successfully competing in Track and Field and Cross Country.
“We were national qualifiers,” Mr. Macias said of his USC Track and Field team. “I ran the 1500 and 5000, and was pretty close to qualifying for nationals. But I was All Conference every year in the 1500.”
Mr. Macias began his nearly 4-decade association with the District as an assistant Boys Track and Field coach at Central and substitute teacher. With his foot in the door, Mr. Macias added “night school” Physical Education teacher at Keating Junior High to his soon-to-be blossoming resume.
“I liked it immediately,” Mr. Macias said of his chosen profession.
Although he was offered a position in Las Vegas, Nevada, Mr. Macias set in motion his destiny by remaining with the District. In 1985, he became an In-School Inclusion Teacher at Central while continuing to coach Track and later, also at Central, freshman football.
Mr. Macias’ stay at Central lasted 4 years, after which he moved across Orman Avenue to become a full time Physical Education teacher at Keating. There, he succeeded Pete Falletta as head Cross Country coach for both the boys and girls before moving into the position of head coach for the Girls Track and Field program at Central.
In his decade-plus of coaching the Central girls, Mr. Macias taught Physical Education and Health at Keating, as well as South and Centennial high schools. In 1993, he became a Teacher on Special Assignment, working from the District Administration Building while continuing his coaching duties.
As a TOSA, Mr. Macias worked in a community liaison capacity with at-risk youth displaying behavioral and tardiness issues. It was an enjoyable experience that allowed him to exercise his empathy and fervent desire to see disadvantaged young people succeed.
“I did a lot of home visits and worked closely with Assistant Principals at Central and South high schools and the feeder schools,” he explained.
After years of service as a TOSA, Mr. Macias was promoted to the position of Director of Pupil Personnel, an administrative role that removed him from his beloved coaching duties.
“I missed coaching a lot,” he admitted. “So what I did is become a certified Track and Field and Cross Country Official and worked all the meets at Dutch Clark. It allowed me to stay connected to sports.”
Along the way, Mr. Macias was named an Assistant Principal/Athletic Director at his alma mater East. It was the final step before he settled into the position that endeared him to innumerable coaches, athletes and spectators from throughout the state.
“My ultimate goal was just to be a teacher and coach for 30-some years and then retire,” Mr. Macias said. “But I found out that I liked working in pupil personnel and also in athletics from an administrative position. So as jobs came open, I applied for them.”
In 2011, Mr. Macias assumed the title of D60 Athletic Director. It was a responsibility-heavy but rewarding position that allowed him to work not only with District programs but forge a relationship with the Colorado High School Activities Association, the governing body for all sports and extra-curricular events.
Through that relationship, Mr. Macias became a CHSAA board member, serving for 5 years as a representative of not only Pueblo but the whole of Southern Colorado.
“I also liked working with the Athletic Directors from districts across the state,” Mr. Macias continued. “And the more I got into it, the more I loved it, working from the Ad Building.”
In that building, Mr. Macias established a host of relationships that made his work even more enriching.
“I loved working with everyone: the different Superintendents, with the latest being Charlotte, and the entire team,” he said. “It was very rewarding work.”
When Mr. Macias began his 10-year run as Athletic Director, the iconic Dutch Clark Stadium was in dire need of repairs and upgrades, and he made it a mission to address those issues.
“It was my goal to get new turf, and we were looking at $400,000 to do it,” Mr. Macias said. “So I worked with Dan DeRose and his crew, who had connections to the Denver Broncos and the NFL. There was a grant, called the Grass Roots Grant, and we put in an application.”
The District was successful in receiving the $200,000 grant, which required an equal match. In the end, the replacement of the turf at the stadium came in under budget, at $305,000.
With nearly $100,000 in reserve, Mr. Macias turned his attention to the stadium’s aged and hardly functional scoreboard.
Bob Lawson, the District’s Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management, worked with Mr. Macias and District staff to ensure that Dutch Clark Stadium received a scoreboard worthy of its new playing surface.
“And the project just kept on getting bigger and bigger,” Mr. Macias said. “It started off with just a little scoreboard, and then after a couple months, we found out that we could get a bigger one for $90,000.”
The project truly blossomed when sponsors offered their assistance.
“They came to us and said, ‘We can get you a bigger scoreboard,’” Mr. Macias said. “That’s when Ron Guarienti and Pueblo Electrics came in and helped us out, finding more sponsors. And that’s how we ended up with the scoreboard we have now: almost $700,000.”
Mr. Guarienti and his team also donated in-kind electrical services to the massive undertaking. Mr. Macias flashes a proud smile when he recalls the last-minute effort that resulted in the high-tech scoreboard going live for the first time.
“We had the scoreboard going only 1 hour before the 2016 Cannon Game,” he explained. “We had everyone working on it: Pueblo Electrics, the Daktronics guy. Everyone was on hand to make sure that scoreboard was up and running before the start of the game.
“And when I saw that scoreboard go on, it was probably one of the biggest moments of my career.”
Other District facilities also benefitted from Mr. Macias direction.
With soft drink sponsorship money left in reserve, new competitive wresting mats for high and middle schools were purchased, and upgrades made to wrestling practice rooms. New indoor and outdoor scoreboards likewise were secured, as was up-to-date athletic equipment.
True to his nature and work ethic, Mr. Macias remained committed to the very end. He put off his retirement until the end of June so that he could coordinate and oversee the South-Central League Track and Field Championships at Dutch Clark Stadium and 2A and 4A state baseball playoffs at Runyon Sports Complex and Colorado State University Pueblo.
It was during the Track and Field Championships that Mr, Macias was called to the finish line and honored with an unexpected stadium-wide salutation for his decades of dedication to the District and athletes.
Most appropriately, the attention of the spectators was directed by the public address announcer to the scoreboard – “with the biggest video screen in the state of Colorado” – that Mr. Macias played an instrumental role in bringing to the stadium.
Another highlight came this year, when Mr. Macias oversaw the addition of Unified Bowling as a CHSAA-sanctioned event.
In a bit of “full circle” synchronicity, Mr. Macias’ East High School secured the first ever state title in the sport.
“After 36 years, it’s time to move on,” Mr. Macias said. “And after 10 years as Athletic Director, it’s time for someone new to come in. It’s a very time-consuming position: you work your 8-hour days and then go in the evenings to work athletic events, especially during football.”
In his retirement, Mr. Macias and his wife plan to travel, with fishing and golf also on the agenda.
“I’m going to miss it all, but especially working with the kids,” he said. “When I made the decision my junior year to become an educator, I did it because I loved working with kids. I come from a big family – my parents loved kids – and I kind of inherited that.
“I wasn’t going to have all those kids, but I had my two boys at home but also the kids I worked with through sports and teaching.”