Paonia High School math teacher and sports coach Brent McRae said that leaving Paonia was one of the toughest decisions he's ever made. McRae has accepted a teaching position at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch. "Paonia will always be a part of who I am," said McRae. "It helped me to be a better person."
During his five years at PHS, McRae was an assistant football coach for a season before taking over as head coach in 2013.
McRae led the Eagles to a 47-5 record, four league titles, and Class 1A state titles in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 Paonia was the state runner-up.
As an assistant track coach McRae also coached the girls' basketball team to five state tournament appearances and a state championship last March.
In each of his five seasons as the track program's jumping coach, the girls teams won five consecutive state titles, qualified numerous jumpers for state competition, and set state meet records in the long jump and high jump.
"Watching the kids in all the sports was a joy," said McRae.
In addition, Newsweek named Paonia a top-500 school in the nation, and was also named a top-30 high school in the state in 2017. All of that adds up, McRae said. "I was just thankful that I got to be a part of it for those five years."
McRae also earned his master's degree while teaching at PHS.
The list of people to thank is "far, far too long" to name, he said. "Working for (principal Randal) Palmer, working for the school, all the kids. It's a really special place, for many reasons. They'll always have a piece of my heart."
Paonia has yet to officially announce a new head football coach. McRae is one of three head coaches the school is losing this year. Andy Pipher retired after 21 years as head coach of the wresting program, and Krista Carsten announced that she is stepping down as head volleyball coach.