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Thursday, June 25, 2020

New Highlands AD Brings Numerous Years of Experience in Athletics

Caldwell Calls Highlands AD Position "Top Five Premier Jobs in Kentucky"

New Highlands Director of Athletics Wes Caldwell helped Lexington Catholic to state championships in baseball in 2006 and football in 2005.

The new Highlands Director of Athletics in Wes Caldwell has had a lot of positive experiences growing up around athletics.

Caldwell wants to help the student-athletes at Highlands have more of those experiences when he settles into his new role on July 1. Caldwell graduated from Lexington Catholic in 2007 and had been an assistant AD there before taking the Highlands job.

"It's one of those opportunities that you hope for when you get in the field that I want to be in," Caldwell said. "It is one of the top five premier jobs in Kentucky. Honored is a word that doesn't do it justice to lead such great men and women and be around some amazing coaches."

Caldwell helped the LexCath Knights to state championships in 2006 in baseball and the Class AAA state football championship in 2005. That 2005 team shut out Highlands, 17-0 in Fort Thomas in the region championship game.

Caldwell then played football and baseball at Middle Tennessee State University located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Caldwell helped the Blue Raiders football team to a 42-32 win over Southern Mississippi in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl. That marked the first bowl win in school history as an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Division program.

Caldwell has a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Communication from MTSU and a Master's Degree in Recreation and Sports Administration from Western Kentucky University. Caldwell did internships in the athletic departments at LexCath and MTSU and worked as a graduate assistant/wide receiver coach at Bethel University.

"With Mr. Caldwell's experience as a two-sport Division I athlete and holding a Master's Degree in Sports Administration, we are excited to have him join the Highlands athletic team," said Matthew Bertasso, Highlands High School Principal in a release. "He brings an array of experience that will help lead our teams and athletes to the next level."

Caldwell is still young enough to relate to the student-athletes. His wife Sara, a Lexington Dunbar alum, will be a Special Education teacher at Highlands Middle School. She used to be the Head Middle School Volleyball Coach at Southern Middle School for several years. They have a daughter entering the third grade in Mila.

"As a former athlete, you kind of know what they're going through," Caldwell said. "Some things may change with as much social media as they have now and things like that. The kids that I coach, my daughter and my nieces keep me somewhat young and grounded."

Caldwell knows he'll be putting in 70 to 80 hours per week during the school year. But he said his family is supportive of that.

"My daughter has been brought up knowing that we're at the baseball field, the football field or somewhere else," Caldwell said. "She knows that's what Dad does. She got acclimated, especially at Lexington Catholic. When we went to basketball practice, the girls were great with her. It's always great having everyone on board with that and knowing that some days, I might be somewhere for a long time and someone has to pick up the slack. That's the epitome of the teamwork that I strive to have with every athletic department. That's to help somebody out whenever needed."

Caldwell had a lot of positive things to say about the facilities at Highlands High School. Down in the valley, Highlands built a field house where the old softball field used to be. It opened in the winter of 2015. The softball team plays at Winkler Field next to Moyer Elementary. The field at Highland Park where the baseball team plays just added a turf infield.

"It hands-down has to be one of the best facilities in Kentucky. I've been all over the country. I've been to a lot of smaller colleges. I've been to a lot of bigger colleges. It's on par with some of the colleges that I've seen," Caldwell said. "It's phenomenal. It only helps our student-athletes with things like weight lifting. When I went on a tour, my mouth just dropped. I couldn't get over how nice and how amazing the facilities are and how much advantages you get with those facilities."

The Highlands Combined Swimming and Diving teams won the state championship last year. He agreed things like that take time.

The Highlands boys basketball team finished its best season in a while this past winter going 28-4, winning its first 36th District championship since 2008 and driving all the way to the 9th Region championship game before losing 59-54 to Covington Catholic in a hard-fought game at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University. Kevin Listerman completed his seventh season as head coach of the Bluebirds.

"You don't start building a house from the top up. You have to start with a foundation. I think there's a lot of people that lose sight of that as well," Caldwell said. "I'm just ready to get in there, work hard and watch these student-athletes grow."

Caldwell is aware people in town want to see the Highlands football team return to the state power status it had been known for entering its 106th season this fall. The Bluebirds own 23 state championships with the last one coming in 2014.

But since then, Highlands has gone 33-28. The Bluebirds last won a district in region championship in 2015 losing 41-31 to Pulaski County in the Class 5A state semifinals. But Highlands has only been as far as the region championship game in 2018 since then.

"I plan on being around at a lot of the practices and of course, all the games maybe just giving advice here and there, but not be too intrusive and step on anybody's toes," Caldwell said. "We hired people to do a job and they're very much qualified to do it. I want to get us back to where Highlands was when I used to play. It was always one of those games when I was at Lexington Catholic where you were optimistic, but you were a little bit fearful and a little scared because you know you were going to get a beating that game. The atmosphere is very, very tough to play in. You knew you had to pack that lunch when you came up there and the next day, you knew you were going to feel it. I'm ready to get everyone rejuvenated and behind the football team."

Caldwell knows Coronavirus 2019 places some challenges on the start of the fall season. The Highlands Board of Education approved July 13 as the restart date even though the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control voted 13-5 to vacate the dead period that normally goes from June 25 to July 9.

"It definitely sets us back a little bit. But it's something where we have great coaches in place. They've done a great job with the off-season workouts," Caldwell said. "Hopefully the kids are doing the same with keeping the workouts up. I know it's kind of boring not doing it with someone else. But I've talked with many coaches and they're doing a great job keeping the kids motivated and ready for that day when it does come."

The first official date for practices and tryouts is the typical July 15. More guidelines from the state could be released closer to that time.

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