Changing of the Guard in Rochester: Striegel Retires, Elam Hired as AD
WARRIORS: Jerry Striegel Retiring After 39 Years in Education at Rochester and Tenino; Centralia Product Jesse Elam Taking Over
By Aaron VanTuyl
Jerry Striegel isn’t sure what he’s going to do when classes start back up in the fall and he’s got nowhere to be.
After 39 years in education, though, he knows it’s a welcome dilemma, and he’s pretty sure his replacement as Rochester High School’s athletic director will be able to handle himself just fine.
Striegel is set to retire at the end of the school year, and last month the Rochester School District announced Jesse Elam will take over as the Warriors’ AD.
What’s Striegel going to do now?
“Not come to work,” he said. “Not stand in a gym or on a field. … No, I will probably come back and watch them play.”
That, of course, depends on whether he wraps up his chores around the house. His wife, Kitty, retired a year ago, he explained.
“My honey-do list is extremely long,” he said, “since she’s had a year to plan it all.”
Striegel grew up in Rochester, attended Centralia College and graduated from Western Washington University in 1979. He’d caught the teaching bug early and decided to make it his career in fifth grade, though by the time college started he was having second thoughts.
“I thought I’d go into business,” he recalled, “and about my first accounting class I decided that isn’t really what I wanted to be, so I moved to education.”
He took a job teaching middle school health and P.E. in Rochester in 1979, then moved to Tenino to teach social studies in 1982. He came back to Rochester in 2002.
His coaching career started with his first teaching job. He was a middle school football and basketball coach in Rochester, and a Warriors’ assistant baseball coach with Bruce Taylor. In Tenino, he was the head baseball coach for 12 years and the head volleyball coach for eight years, as well as an assistant baseball coach, an assistant fastpitch coach, and, just for kicks, the head tennis coach for a year. That, of course, was in addition to 10 years as the Beavers’ athletic director.
Back in Rochester he was an assistant baseball coach with Larry Heinz, an assistant volleyball coach and assistant girls basketball coach, and then the Warriors’ head baseball for nine years as well as the head volleyball coach.
He’s been Rochester’s athletic director for the last eight years, and it’s been his full-time role for the past three.
“As an AD, I think the one thing I’ll miss the most, is just the daily (work) with coaches. I just enjoy that part of it,” he said. “The coaches is what I’ll miss as the AD. The daily interaction with kids I’ve missed the last three years.”
Striegel was inducted into the Centralia College Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, based on his pitching career for the Trailblazers and WWU and his coaching achievements — which included coaching Tenino to the 1986 state baseball championship and coaching Rochester to the 2008 state baseball championship.
“Between coaching and teaching, they’re basically one and the same,” he said. “It’s the daily interaction with kids. Kids are pretty interesting to deal with, and that’s what makes it fun.”
That, naturally, has been the rewarding part of a career that’s covered parts of five decades.
“One of the things that makes you feel the greatest is when you have kids that come back and they’re going to go into the teaching profession,” he said, “and they tell you it’s because of your class or something.”
Elam and Striegel are both, in fact, former Tenino baseball coaches, and faced off on the diamond plenty of times during Elam’s six-year stint with the Beavers.
“I think he’s going to do a great job. He’s got a great personality — he’s very outgoing, very gregarious — and he can talk to anybody,” Striegel said of Elam. “I think he can talk to anybody, at about any level of conversation, and I think he’ll do a great job here.”
For Elam, it’s a chance to shift gears professionally while moving closer to home. The new Warrior AD graduated from Centralia High School in 2001, played baseball for a year at St. Martin’s University, played a year at Centralia College, and wrapped his career and degree at Mesa State College — now Colorado Mesa University.
He was hired to teach middle school P.E. in Tenino in 2007, and coached the Beaver baseball team from 2008-2013, which included a runner-up state finish in 2011 and a third-place finish in 2013.
He’s currently in his fifth season as Capital High School’s baseball coach, and has taught health and P.E. at Capital since the 2013-14 school year.
“I think they’ve got a great staff. There’s good coaches there already, and it’s already well-established with Jerry, and what he’s done,” Elam said. “I think I can add some positives, and just try to keep the culture going and maybe improve the culture a little bit, to try to get back to the way that Rochester was — the way I think about it, anyway.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is the continuing adjustment to the 2A classification. Rochester moved up from the 1A level in 2014 and officially joined the Evergreen 2A Conference in 2016 after two years of playing in a hybrid 2A/1A league that made reaching the playoffs a complicated, and difficult, endeavour.
“It’s just getting the kids and the people to believe they belong there, because I don’t see it changing with the way the Grand Mound area is growing,” Elam said. “It only takes a year or two — that one time of having a good team and just winning, and just to try to get that belief.”
He’ll be essentially job-shadowing with Striegel in the spring, once baseball season comes to an end. His Cougars are currently 6-5 overall and tied for first at 4-2 in 3A South Sound Conference play.
He’s entirely worried about missing baseball when he starts his new job next fall — not yet, anyway. Elam and his wife, Anne, have an 8-year-old daughter (Gracie) and a 5-year-old son (Hank), which he said should help him ease out of coaching after 11 years in the dugout.
“Once it happens, we’ll see, but my daughter’s starting fastpitch and my son’s starting Little League,” he said. “If I need to get my fix I can get it there, but I’m really excited about this opportunity. I think it’ll be fun.”