Caston hired Gina Hierlmeier as its new athletic director at a school board meeting on Wednesday.

Hierlmeier comes over from Tippecanoe Valley, where she was the athletic director the last two years.

She cited an opportunity to work with Principal Chuck Evans as a reason for taking the Caston job.

“I really enjoyed where I was working and it was a hard decision to leave Tippecanoe Valley because there are great people there,” Hierlmeier said. “But the opportunity at Caston is an opportunity for me to work with Chuck who a lot of people may or may not know was my first athletic director when I first started coaching at West Central. So he’s been a longtime mentor of mine and we have a great relationship, and he’s introduced me to people at Caston and the school corporation and just at this point I felt like it was a good move for me and my family and allows me to still continue to be a part of an athletic program.”

Hierlmeier had a successful run coaching the girls basketball team at West Central, going 94-44 and winning four sectional titles in six seasons from 2006-12. She went 45-20 in three seasons at Culver from 2012-15. She coached for one season at Mishawaka Marian going 8-15 in 2015-16. She also coached volleyball for five years at West Central.

“Right now my focus has been primarily being an athletic director and giving the time that I think is necessary to coaches and student-athletes to continue to build programs. That’s my first priority and I don’t want to take away from that commitment to put myself in a coaching situation currently,” she said.

Former Caston athletic direct Josh Overmyer recently left Caston to take the assistant principal job at LaVille after one year at Caston.

Hierlmeier follows in the footsteps of Debb Stevens in that she’s a female athletic director at Caston. Stevens retired in 2016 after being the AD there for 25 years.

“Through my years of coaching I’ve had great respect for Debb,” Hierlmeier said. “She was actually the athletic director at Caston when I was still an athlete in high school. I’ve known Debb for a long time in passing. I always respected the job that she did and we played in quite a few IHSAA tournaments at their building and she always did a great job putting on those events and was always a great host.”

Heirlmeier was a three-sport athlete at Wabash High School. She went on to play one year of basketball at Tri-State University (now Trine).

Hierlmeier currently resides just south of Plymouth with husband, Grant, and their 5-year-old daughter, Andie.

“We’ve lived here for going on our seventh year here. Currently the plan is to continue to drive as I have the last couple years,” she said. “The hope would be eventually we could move a little bit closer, the drive’s not too bad, I live pretty close to hopping on 31, so it’s just 31 to 25 for me.”

She added she’s hoping to stay on at Caston for the long-term and eventually bring her daughter along as a student.

“That’s the ultimate goal is to find a place where everything fits and everything has the right feel. With the people that I’ve met and the great job that Chuck is doing there, I feel like it’s a good fit for myself and where I’m at currently in my career.”

The Comets are set to compete in fall sports soon. Their first regular season event would be the Cass County volleyball tournament on Aug. 15 at Lewis Cass.

Hierlmeier said Caston is still working out details on whether or not fans will be allowed at athletic events.

The IHSAA stated in a press release Thursday that fans will be allowed “at the discretion of the host school with guidance from local health officials and in accordance with the governor’s stage 4.5. If allowing spectators in a bleacher setting:

“a) Family units may sit together but using 6 feet of social distancing between another family unit.

“b) On a set of bleachers, it should be no more than 50% capacity with a maximum of 250 people (even if the bleachers can fit more with social distancing).

“c) If a stadium has multiple individual sets of bleachers, each separate area can be seen as a separate unit. However, an important part is each segment must have separate designated entrances and separate designated restroom facilities in order not to exceed a total of 250 people. Schools might be able to accomplish this by having staggered arrival times if multiple entrances are not available. Bottom line is that they must do something to avoid people congregating (to get in or in line for restrooms).”

“Obviously our hope I think for all athletic directors and schools are that sports continue to keep moving in the right direction and we get started on time,” Hierlmeier said. “I think the big thing that I think everyone, including coaches and myself, have had to learn through this whole process is that every day brings a new challenge and you’ve just got to address it and move on from there and adjust what you thought maybe you were going to do. It’s going to be an interesting fall but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue the path that we’ve had in our area of keeping sports moving.”

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