Rick Penner, the new Moffat County High School athletic director, is shown above with his bulldog, Ivy. Penner is taking over for the departed Jeff Simon. He said he is honored to have the opportunity to serve Craig and excited about the move.

Courtesy Photo

Rick Penner, the new Moffat County High School athletic director, is shown above with his bulldog, Ivy. Penner is taking over for the departed Jeff Simon. He said he is honored to have the opportunity to serve Craig and excited about the move.

Fulfilling a dream

Rick Penner named MCHS Athletic Director

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Five questions with Rick Penner

Q. What is your favorite sport?

A. Football

Q. Who is your favorite athlete?

A. Jim Thorpe

Q. What is your favorite sports team?

A. The Denver Broncos

Q. Biggest influence in your life and why?

A. My parents. They gave me support, direction and guidance.

Q. Coke or Pepsi?

A. I'm a Coke man.

As an avid outdoorsman, Rick Penner said he's traveled more than 30,000 miles on the water.

He's climbed Mount McKinley, traveled cross-country from New Hampshire to Baja, Mexico and gone deep-sea fishing in Alaska.

But, Craig stuck out in his mind.

Passing through town on a boat on the Yampa River a few years back on his way to Utah, Penner said, "Craig was a town that I always wanted to be a part of."

"I've passed through Craig thousands of times," he said. "And it's a town I could really see myself settling down in."

His time has come.

Two weeks ago, Penner was named Moffat County High School's new athletic director, replacing the departed Jeff Simon.

"I'm really excited to come to town and get things started," he said. "I want smart athletes. Education is what you do in school and sports come second."

Penner has been a teacher first and coach second.

Penner graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Physical education, then continued his education at the University of Denver, where he earned a master's degree in principal preparation and leadership studies.

That may sound strange coming from the man who chose to head up MCHS' athletic department for what he said will hopefully be until he retires.

He's taught and coached at Eagle Valley Middle School, West Grand High School in Kremmling, was an athletic trainer at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire and earned his first AD position at York Middle School in Thornton.

He moved up to assistant principal and dean of students at York before becoming assistant principal at Hidden Lake High School in Westminster.

Penner, 50, said Craig has many attributes that attracted him to the position.

"Being on the Eastern Plains, one of the few schools you regularly hear about athletics-wise, is Moffat County," he said. "I've put a lot of research into their sports teams. I know how dominant their girls basketball program is, I know all about their football team and I know they have smart athletes.

"The kids at Moffat County have spirit, spunk and a hard work ethic, and that's the kind of country that I want to tap into."

Penner said an academic state championship is just as important as one earned on the field.

"We can do both here at Moffat County," he said. "We are not going to be divided in those two areas. We are going to combine both and create a synergy. We will be powerful as one.

"Denver area athletes are going to have to watch out for teams from Craig."

Penner is relocating to Craig at the end of June, and it's a transition he said he's looking forward too.

"I am honored to be able to serve Craig," he said. "It's not about me though, it's about the school."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793, or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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