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WCC: Face of Orcas athletic program retires

DAVID RASBACH - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD POSTED: Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009

After nearly doubling the number of athletic programs that Whatcom Community College offers during his six-year tenure as the school's Director of Student Programs and Athletics, it would be safe to say Mike Langey is leaving the school's athletic department much better than when he took over in 2003.

And with seven Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges division titles during his tenure and a new $1 million soccer field that is the envy of just about every other community college in the region on WCC's campus, you could also say that Langey helped make the Orcas athletic program a lot stronger, as well.

Langey, who also oversaw the student programs, advised the WCC student government and taught a leadership class among other duties, announced that he is retiring from the post this summer, though he will continue in a part-time role until the school names his replacement.

"I'm just hoping to maybe work fewer hours, overall," Langey said in a phone interview. "It's a fun job. I really enjoyed all aspects of the position in student leadership and programs as well as athletics. It was a difficult decision for me to make."

Now that he's made the decision, Langey will be difficult to replace.

"What Mike brought to the athletic department was he was very supportive," WCC men's basketball coach and assistant athletic director Chris Scrimsher said in a phone interview. "The students came first with Mike, and it was great to have somebody who gave you such great support working in the athletic department. ... For the past six years, he has been the face of athletics here at Whatcom."

Scrimsher will take over Langey's athletic duties as the new athletic coordinator, while the school is expected to hire a replacement for the student programs and leadership position.

"Mike is a person of high integrity," Scrimsher said. "He is very meticulous. It gave me a great opportunity to work with and learn from somebody who was such a great role model. He was a great advocate for the student, and I think it says a lot that the athletic department doubled in size during his tenure."

When Langey took the position a year after moving to Bellingham following a 30-year career in the Air Force, WCC's athletic department consisted of men's and women's basketball teams and a volleyball program.

"One of my first projects when I got here was the construction of Orca Field," Langey said of his role in getting the new soccer-only, artificial surface field built at WCC. "It was a lot of fun, because it was a big challenge."

Construction on the field, which is also now home to the Western Washington University soccer programs and hosts numerous high school and community games, finished in the spring of 2005.

That fall the Orcas introduced a new men's soccer program, which has since won four straight division titles. Three years later, WCC added a women's program, which also started to see some success last fall.

WCC also started men's and women's cross country programs in 2007, but both programs were budgetary casualties after last fall.

"We just got stretched too tight budget-wise," Langey said. "We would have loved to have kept those programs around."

Fighting the recent economic climate that is taxing athletic programs at every level wasn't the only battle Langey waged during his time at WCC, though.

"Another big challenge is continually communicating the high standards we have set to the rest of the college and community," he said. "I believe that athletics can help students develop. It gives them a good work ethic and the ability to work as a team, as well as leadership and discipline, which translate into everything that they will do in their life."

Langey said he was pleased with how the students and the athletic programs progressed during the past six years.

"I think we have a quality athletic program," he said. "We evaluate the program on the three C's - classroom, competition and community. Our student athletes have done very well as students. That's the most important. In competition, we won more than our fair share of regional titles in different sports. And we always emphasize that our athletes are ambassadors of the school when they travel and when they are out in the community. I thought our athletes have done a very good job of representing our school in a positive light."

Langey said that he would like to continue to teach at WCC part-time if the opportunity presents itself, and he and his wife plan to do a little more traveling. He also hopes to play a more golf, though he said, "I'm not very good at it, but I want to have the time to get a bit better."

Even if the golf game doesn't come around, he'll have plenty of stories to tell about his success with the Orcas the past six years.

"I think my favorite memories are when athletic teams go further in NWAACC competition then we expected them to go or when they had a better season than we expected," Langey said. "The ones that come to mind are the volleyball team finishing second in the NWAACC tournament two years ago or the men's basketball team finishing fifth the last two years. It's really rewarding to watch a team that maybe doesn't have tremendous individual talent but meshes really well together."

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 715-2271.

Source article: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/601/story/1025982.html


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