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Beloved Cross-Country coach to leave Mills

Photo courtesy of Megan Miller

Head cross-country coach Sharon Chiong, who is finishing her ninth year of coaching at Mills, will be leaving the school at the end of May.

She was chosen as the Cal-Pac Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2001-05 by a vote of Cal-Pac coaches each year. "She has been such an impact coach in terms of taking the lead and shaping our department," said Athletic Director Themy Adachi.

"There was a string of synchronicities that led me to be at Mills," said Chiong, who came from Florida to coach in 1997. "It's the same action that's drawing me away now," she said. Chiong said she does not know what is in store for her in the future.

Chiong was largely responsible for developing the Challenging Athletes' Minds for Personal Success (CHAMPS) program at Mills by getting students involved in their community. "She's been instrumental in making clear to us the value of really putting value of student-athlete welfare first," said Adachi. "She really started to go after the grants so that students had a voice in what kind of learning they got to do," she said.

"What has been very enriching for me is my contact with students," said Chiong. Last September, she traveled to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Student-Athlete Regional Leadership Conference with three CHAMPS members, including junior Alexi Ueltzen.

"It was really cool to see another coach go and learn with such enthusiasm," said Ueltzen. "I think there are a lot of coaches out there who think they've got that down already and don't need to learn more, but she's not like that."

Staff from the Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (APER) Department are currently conducting a search to fill Chiong's position as well as two other searches: one for Sports Information Director and Assistant Director of Summer Arts and another for the front office position, currently occupied by Megan Miller, '05.

A shuffle of responsibility will take place next semester in APER, with head swim coach Neil Virtue taking over CHAMPS and head volleyball coach Marla Mundis teaching Women's Health Issues. Chiong's other responsibilities will be distributed throughout APER.

The new coach will take control of the fitness center and develop fitness programming, including PE classes, clubs and excursions. "We're trying to recruit someone who has some interest not only [in] running but in fitness assessment and programs," said Adachi.

Chiong says her future plans remain unclear, but that she will not give up running or forget the support she has received at Mills. "If I have to choose between happy, sad, mad or glad to describe my emotions over this…Well, I couldn't decide," said Chiong.

"I have mixed feelings about her departure," said head swim coach Neil Virtue. "One is a feeling of sadness and loss because she brings a lot to the department, but also there's a part of me that's excited for her and for what she's stepping into."

"She has worked really hard for her team, the student-athletes, and the department," said Ueltzen. "She'll definitely be missed."