Tom Hegarty knew back in the spring this would be his last school year at Hanford High School.
After 20 years running the Falcons’ sports programs, the athletic director decided it was time to do something else.
“I sort of joked with the guys at school for a while, saying it was year to year,” Hegarty said. “I felt like this was the year. I felt it was the right time. I have some other interests. I’m almost 62, and I think I’ve got some things I want to do.”
He doesn’t yet know what those things are, but he’s not worried. He’ll figure it out.
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His last day at Hanford was early this month.
Former Ellensburg athletic director Eric Davis takes over at Hanford.
Hegarty says he spent “37 years, 37 fast years” in education, from teaching in a children’s home in Kentucky, to a Christian school in Los Angeles, to another school in the San Francisco Bay area, then three years at Wahluke before coming to Hanford.
During his tenure, Hanford moved from playing in the old Mid-Valley League into the Big Nine Conference, where the Falcons finally played against their Tri-City rivals on a daily basis.
Hanford is now in the Mid-Columbia Conference, which consists of the seven large Tri-City schools and Walla Walla.
“The year we left the Mid-Valley League, we graduated so many (standout athletes), we struggled right at beginning in the new league,” Hegarty said. “We know in the MCC you’ve got to be ready to play every day. I think it’s been good. I like the relationships with the schools.”
Hanford also went through renovations, which resulted in a newer gymnasium.
“It’s a great place,” he said. “It changed the face of Hanford permamantly. That had a lot to do with the school board and (Richland district administrator) Todd Baddley.”
But it’ll be the relationships Hegarty had with the kids, coaches, teachers and families at Hanford he’ll treasure the most.
“I am most proud of the program we ran at Hanford and what I think were quality programs for kids,” he said. “We tried to develop good people, and keep a balance of perspective of winning and losing. I feel like we ran a real classy program and ran it by the book. We always followed the WIAA rulebook.”
Hegarty has always considered the Hanford family his family.
An athletic director’s day starts at 7 a.m. and sometimes doesn’t end until 9 or 10 p.m., if there’s a contest.
“It goes with the territory. You don’t think about it,” he said. “I’m grateful that my wife Amy is understanding. But athletic directors can’t do it alone. A combination of coaches and boosters help out, as do parents and administrators.”
Hegarty knows he wants to visit his kids this summer.
“And I think one thing I’ll enjoy is if Amy and I want go somewhere on the weekend, we can go,” he said.
But he knows when the games start in late summer again, it’s going to be weird.
“I do feel like reality is going to set in when we start cranking it up in late August and for the first time in 37 years I won’t be at a school,” he said. “But I won’t have to worry about if a team is playing in the right location, if the referees show up.”
But he certainly won’t be forgotten, especially in the Hanford community.
“Hopefully I’ll be remembered that I was a man of good character and high integrity,” he said, “and I someone who cared about people.”
That won’t be a problem.