David Benedict knows Vista PEAK Prep well as he has coached wrestling there since it opened and he remains there with a new role as athletic director. Benedict was hired to replace John Sullivan, who was hired by the Colorado High School Activities Association in June. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

David Benedict had looked near and far — even as far as Texas — in recent years for a chance to become a leader in a high school athletic department.

Lo and behold, the job he sought unexpectedly opened up at his own school (Vista PEAK Prep) when John Sullivan stepped down last month to take an assistant commissioner post with the Colorado High School Activities Association.

Benedict — who also serves as Vista PEAK’s boys wrestling coach — was hired and began his tenure this week, planning to put the institutional knowledge he has to work right away.

“Sully (Sullivan) gave me a call before he stepped down and gave me some ins and outs of the job,” Benedict said. “I’d looked elsewhere, but I’m here already, invested in the district and coached since (Vista PEAK) Exploratory opened up. There’s nobody in the area that knows the student community here better or has the same rapport with the people around here, so I gave it a shot.”

Benedict — who followed Sullivan and Mike Hughes, who is now the AD at Lakewood High School — is one of three new athletic directors among Aurora high schools for the 2022-23 school year, joining Erick Swanson at Rangeview (story, here) and Todd Schuler, who has taken over at Regis Jesuit.

He sought advice from some local athletic directors with experience — current Smoky Hill AD John Thompson as well as Ryan Knorr, who was at Overland before he departed for Durango — to help him get started.

“The biggest thing I’ve heard is that you have get your feet wet and learn the systems in the first year and not try to change the world in a day,” Benedict said.

There will be some change for him to deal with immediately, however.

Like Swanson, Benedict will be charged with helping his school transition smoothly to a new league, as Vista PEAK will join Rangeview and Hinkley (as well as Westminster) as members of the Denver Prep League after the East Metro Athletic Conference disbanded following last season.

The EMAC dissolved as a number of members on the north end of the metro area headed to the Front Range League for geographic purposes. That left the four other programs to find a new home and they landed in a DPL that now swells to 14 schools spread among multiple classifications.

“We’ve moved around leagues quite a bit since we opened, so we’ll see how this is going to benefit us,” Benedict said. “I’m sure it will be good for us in some sports and maybe not in others.”

Benedict is relieved that there is little coaching turnover, as fall coaches are nearly all the same as last season, with only a small transition in cross country. Additionally, Vista PEAK will add boys tennis this fall for the first time after athletes previously had to co-op with Rangeview.

The only co-ops that remain for the school are in the swimming pool (with Rangeview in girls and Hinkley with boys) and boys & girls lacrosse (with Rangeview).

Benedict will retain his role as boys wrestling coach and will lean on the experience of his veteran assistant coaches in the first few weeks of the season as he usual does to get the team underway with preparations for the season.

“There will be some speed bumps I’m sure, but I have a great staff who knows how to do things that need to be done,” Benedict said. “I have their back and they have mine.”

Benedict said he will focus on creating more relationships with people in the surrounding community — which remains isolated in many ways due to its geography, despite new homes and apartments springing up in the area — and will need to do so for fundraising purposes as well.

He already has some ideas in that area that he hopes to implement.

A plan to replace the school’s track has been put off another year, but the school is already in great shape in terms of athletic facilities thanks to the work of predecessors Hughes and Sullivan.

“I really don’t think I could be in a better spot coaching and facility wise,” Benedict said. “We’re at the point where we’re starting to move attendance-wise, so we’re going to have to grow with the attendance in the future. I’m looking forward to it.”

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

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