Having built the C.S. Lewis Academy track and field program from scratch eight years ago, coach Joan Littlefield was worried that when she retired, it would be an odd feeling to hand it over to somebody else.
But after deciding to step down following last month's state meet, Littlefield was pleasantly surprised by how calm she felt about handing the reins to volunteer middle school coach and current George Fox athlete Jacob Graham.
"I think he's going to be excellent," Littlefield said. "That's just such a cool feeling to be able to release it to somebody that you know is going to do a good job. He has track experience as an athlete himself and because he's a teacher at the school, the students know him. He has a great rapport with the students and they really respect and enjoy him, so I think it's a great fit."
Graham, who graduated from Newberg High School in 2010, is familiar with C.S. Lewis, having served as an assistant to Dave Brown on the men's basketball team for the 2010-2011 season. For the past three years, he has taught geometry at the school while he pursues his undergraduate degree in teaching at George Fox.
During that time, Graham spent two years on the George Fox basketball team and has run the 400 hurdles the last four seasons. He also picked up the triple jump as a senior and will compete in that event this winter during the indoor season as he completes his final semester.
Graham is also good friends with boys basketball and soccer coach Brett Vernon and coached middle school basketball at C.S. Lewis this past year as well. Limited by his own school and athletic commitments, Graham was only able to volunteer one day a week with the middle school track program this past season, but it was more than enough time to develop an appreciation for what Littlefield has built.
"She really put a lot into making sure it was fun for the kids," Graham said.
Littlefield said she will be available to assist with the team next season if needed, but it will be a bit strange to attend their meets as a fan.
In her eight years, Littlefield has built a strong program, qualifying at least one athlete for the state meet in seven out of eight years.
"I just felt like this was a good time to step down," Littlefield said. "It was a great season and I've really enjoyed the last eight years working with the kids and seeing the program develop.