New Rangeview High School athletic director Erick Swanson poses in front of the new mural at the school on July 21, 2022. Swanson commissioned the mural from local artist Tristan Milton (@RoyalStain) to pump some life into one of the most visible areas of the school grounds, right in the heart of its athletic facilities. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

Erick Swanson hopes to accomplish a lot with the athletic program this year and in the future, but he’s already made a mark at Rangeview High School.

Over the summer, Swanson — who got hired in March to take over for Shawn Palmer as the school’s athletic director for the 2022-23 school year — commissioned local artist Tristan Milton (also know as @RoyalStain) to bring some life to a drab wall adjacent to the tennis courts outside the school.

When they return to campus, Rangeview students will be greeted with a large mural bearing the school’s mascot in its vibrant red, black and white color scheme. It’s an addition Swanson hopes enhances the abundant pride that already permeates one of Aurora’s oldest high schools.

“It’s a family here, you can just feel it from the minute you walk through the door,” said Swanson, whose first official day on the job was July 18. “I don’t think you run across anybody at Rangeview that doesn’t have history here and everybody you talk to has roots that go beyond what they are doing.

“When you come here, you feel like you are joining a family with a lot of history.”

Swanson — a Michigan native who earned a Masters degree in sports management at Adams State and was an art teacher for 14 years — served the AD role previously at Murphy Creek K-8, which put him a step closer to achieving his goal of leading an athletic department at the high school level.

With the encouragement of Nate Smith (a former Aurora Central athletic director and currently AD at Englewood, where he worked as a dean), Swanson put in his name in for the job at Rangeview, which was seeking to replace Palmer, who decided he wanted to return to the classroom in addition to coaching boys basketball.

Swanson went all in for the job and he has to pinch himself that he got it.

“This is like a dream job for me,” he said. “I don’t think I could have landed in a better place.”

As he forges his own path, Swanson said he would emphasize the concept of servant leadership from the administration all the way down to members of each team.

“Phase I is keep the train on the tracks make sure it is running on time,” he said. “My biggest pillar is servant leadership and I will try to demonstrate that with the coaches, that will trickle down to the athletes. That idea that we are all there to serve each other and that will help us reach our goals.”

Swanson sees a built-in advantage in his first year as he has a wealth of institutional knowledge that he can draw on, especially with the last two athletic directors — Palmer and Vic Strouse — on the coaching staff. Strouse retired from a long tenure as AD in 2019 and still coaches the boys soccer team, while Palmer remains on the boys basketball after his three-year stint as AD.

Add in the contributions of veteran athletic secretary Terri Marshall and the willingness of Smith to answer questions, Swanson feels he has every resource he needs.

Swanson takes over the job as Rangeview turns the page on its time in the East Metro Athletic Conference (EMAC) and enters competition in the Denver Prep League. The EMAC spanned a wide geographic area and a number of schools on the north end of the metro area left it to join the Front Range League.

The three remaining Aurora Public Schools programs (Rangeview, Hinkley and Vista PEAK) — along with Westminster — had to find a new home and found one in the DPL, which will now be one of the state’s largest conferences and include programs of many different classifications.

“I’m going to hold out a lot of hope that we will be a good fit,” Swanson said. “We’ll be playing similar-sized schools to what we are and a lot of schools that look and feel like us, so I’m looking nowhere but up. We’re going to work hard to make it work and we know this is our home now, so we’re going to make the most of it.”

The outcome of the change will vary from sport to sport, but it will be a good switch for Palmer’s boys basketball program, which had few regular challengers in the EMAC, but will have quality opponents such as Denver East and George Washington in its new league.

In the meantime, Swanson — who is grateful that the coaches for the fall, winter and spring seasons are almost all in place — will try to get some new scoreboards in place, oversee some lockerroom transitions and a remodel of the wrestling room as he seeks to improve the athletic experience for Rangeview athletes.

Swanson is one of two new athletic directors in the APS district as David Benedict has taken over at Vista PEAK, while Regis Jesuit also has a new AD in Todd Schuler, who will oversee both the boys and girls divisions.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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