By Chris Chaney
Clermont Northeastern High School got a facelift during the expanse of the early summer months both in terms of facilities and leadership, allowing athletic director Mike Kirk to put into motion a plan that not only will boost the Rockets’ competitive standing, but also their ability to host major events.
“First of all, we wanted to create a positive environment for the kids. Something that not only can they be proud of, but be successful in as well,” Kirk said of what his department is trying to accomplish with its new look. “Wins and losses aren’t always the measuring stick and creating a positive change takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve struggled in some areas for a few years now and we’re trying to rebuild that pride.”
Rebuilding that pride has also meant rebuilding or updating some of the facilities that the Rocket student-athletes compete in and on. Kirk explained that the football/soccer field has been expanded to include a visitor’s side bleacher section and a state-of-the-art sound system has been installed as well. Elsewhere inside the stadium, the long jump pit is being relocated to upgrade the track aspect of the facility.
Inside of the school, a renovation is currently taking place to expand the indoor facilities to incorporate four locker rooms — twice what the school offered in the past — as well as an official’s room, coaches offices and a training room.
“Those are all things we need to host the larger events,” Kirk explained. “Next winter, we’re hosting a boys’ basketball Christmas tournament. Those things couldn’t have been accomplished before, but as I said, it’s something that the kids can take some pride in and call their own.”
The people in charge of restoring that Rocket pride has had some turnover in recent times as well. During the fall season alone, Clermont Northeastern will have three new coaches prowling the sidelines, headlined by a new football coach, Scott Gildea.
“(Gildea) came to us via (Cincinnati College Prep Academy),” Kirk said. “He coached there last year and brought in a new staff with him. He’s a younger guy with a lot of energy and he’s looking to make a positive change.”
Gildea was the next in line after CNE hired Larry Blackstone as Jason Conley’s replacement. Conley is now the offensive coordinator at Batavia. Blackstone was only on the job for a few weeks before having to resign due to personal reasons and Kirk scrambled to get Gildea back into the fold.
Sharing the newly renovated stadium with Gildea’s football team will be the girls’ soccer squad headed up by first-year head coach Kris Asmus. Coming on to coach scholastically from the Fairfield Optimist Soccer Club, Asmus is hoping to put together an entertaining scheme that has players chomping at the bit through summer workouts.
“He’s done a lot of great things with the girls already,” Kirk said. “They’re really excited about their season getting ready to begin.”
Indoors on the CNE campus, Emma Keough took over the girls’ volleyball program from Carmen Tobe. Keough was a standout player during her time at CNE, winning conference Player of the Year honors twice and leading the Lady Rockets to a 40-2 mark in league play between 2004-2006. Going on to play in college at Morehead State University, Keough returned to both of her alma maters this summer as the new varsity head coach took her high school team to a camp at Morehead last week.
Elsewhere, CNE mainstays Liz Benjamin and Jim Jones took over the vacancies in the basketball program for the winter.
With so many fresh faces, Kirk said that energy is nearing all-time highs and the support from the community and the student-athletes is palpable.
“Everybody wants to win, but we want to have that positive environment for the kids,” Kirk reiterated. “With these new coaches that we have in place, they have done a fantastic job at really motivating and challenging our kids. I’ve seen our girls’ soccer team putting in more work than they have in the last nine years. Our girls’ volleyball team took that trip to Morehead for a camp and that’s all they’ve been talking about for the last week. Our football coach did an event three weeks ago called Midnight Maxout where players tried to beat their personal bests in weight lifting.
“That’s what it’s all about — creating that positive change and giving the kids something to be proud of. It’s that climate and culture that’s needed to be successful. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I fully expect all of those teams that I’ve talked about to be very competitive on the field and floor.”