KEYSER - If you've attended any sporting event at Keyser High School over the last eight years, you've most certainly been greeted at the gate or in the stands by the smiling, friendly face of Keyser athletic director Lori Wilson.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - If you’ve attended any sporting event at Keyser High School over the last eight years, you’ve most certainly been greeted at the gate or in the stands by the smiling, friendly face of Keyser athletic director Lori Wilson.
Wilson, always upbeat and positive, has been the perfect ambassador for all things Black and Gold. In addition to being positive and upbeat, Wilson worked hard to ensure all the I’s were dotted and all the T’s were crossed for host team Keyser and visitors alike.
And of course, in those rare instances where trouble arose, Wilson was effective at quickly handling business. In essence, Keyser High athletics have most certainly been in good hands.
On Thursday, June 4, Lori Wilson concluded her eight-year tenure as Keyser High School’s athletic director, officially turning over the proverbial keys and duties to a familiar face, former Potomac State athletic director Shawn White, a Keyser native and alumnus with considerable experience and a skill set and passion akin to Wilson’s.
Wilson hails from Sissonville in Kanawha County. At Sissonville, Lori played both basketball and tennis. After graduation it was on to Concord College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and also played tennis.
Following Concord, it was on to West Virginia University, where Lori earned a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication.
Wilson moved to Keyser in 2000 where she was employed by Frostburg State University for four years. Since 2008, Wilson has served as a substitute teacher with the Mineral County Board of Education, and of course has served as athletic director at Keyser High School from 2012 until today.
In addition to her education and work experience, Wilson brought a passion for sports, kids and coaching to the position. Her coaching experience included girls’ basketball and tennis in Sissonville, along with Tri-State League and Church League basketball, and tennis in Keyser.
As one of her last official duties as athletic director, Wilson was the driving force and organizer behind Keyser High’s Shine for Seniors 2020 event, giving the graduating seniors a chance at one last special moment under the lights at Keyser’s Athletic Complex with all three fields lit.
During the event, Wilson sat down with graduating senior Philip Biser in the press box, where she was interviewed about her tenure as athletic director for a Tornado TV production. Wilson’s words detailing her experience come from that interview with Biser.
“It was a lot of fun. It was very challenging. I knew it would be busy but I had no idea how busy it would be. I was coming into it sort of as a part-time job, a way to volunteer, a way to give back,” Wilson stated. “And it’s a full-time job. It takes a lot of time, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of great people, a lot of great kids. I love Keyser High School, so it’s been a lot of fun; I was blessed to get an opportunity to do it.”
When asked about her favorite memories of the job, Lori responded with what she classified as her top three.
“My very first year, which was 2012, the very first football game that I had ever worked, that I was in charge of managing, was our home game against Fort Hill. To date, that has been one of our biggest crowds, and of course, we beat Fort Hill. It was a huge victory, and that’s the year that we also went to Wheeling Island, so that’s one of my favorite memories,” Wilson stated.
According to Wilson, “My second memory would probably be the 100th anniversary that we put on. That was so humbling, to get to talk to so many local legends and to bring them back to Keyser High School. Many of them had not seen our stadium before. So just seeing all those guys come back together, the band, the cheerleaders, everyone was so excited. That was probably my top highlight.”
“I guess third would be the year the girls’ basketball team went to states. And of course there’s so many other memories I’ve had with so many teams, but those would probably be my top three,” Wilson explained.
After giving her top three memories, Biser very directly asked Wilson, “Just how hard is it?”
“There’s so much involved with being the athletic director that most people do not know. I did not know before I took this position. Athletics is such a big part of high school. Not the most important part, not more important than, but equally important,” Wilson stated. “So much of scheduling, whenever I would be scheduling any type of activities, I’m always looking at everything else going on around the school, trying to create the least amount of conflicts.”
According to Wilson, “Of course, it’s hard, you couldn’t always avoid all conflicts. I would spend a lot of time trying to do that, and you just have to be willing to adapt to change, as we’ve seen with COVID-19, how we’ve had to stop everything and try to find other ways to honor our seniors, to honor all of our athletes, to honor all of our kids.”
Wilson has enjoyed a successful tenure as athletic director, and it’s a position that’s brought her great satisfaction. Make no mistake about it, however, it’s a job that requires a tremendous amount of hard work, time and the ability to adapt to any situation.
“Being the athletic director, it goes beyond just sports. There’s so many things involved, and I think a lot of people would be surprised to how just how involved the athletic director is with so much of the school,” Wilson stated.
Near the conclusion of the interview, Biser asked, “So what are you going to do in retirement?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure. I do know that I’m going to continue coaching tennis. That’s something I guess I started two years ago when we didn’t have a tennis coach and I certainly didn’t want the kids to not have a team. I had coached tennis before at Sissonville High School in my younger days, so that was fun to get involved in that again, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” Wilson explained.
According to Wilson, “So I’m going to continue coaching tennis, and I’m not for sure what else. But I do want to give back more, I want to work with kids more, I want to continue to substitute. I’m sure I’ll still be involved with the Athletic Association and just any other way I can help Keyser High School. But I’ll probably try to get involved in some other things going on, not only in Mineral County, but the state of West Virginia.”
It’s clear that folks in and around Keyser High School and the Keyser community are greatly appreciative of the work Lori Wilson has done as athletic director. In fact, during their interview, Philip Biser thanked Wilson on behalf of himself and the other students for her hard work and dedication. Her eight years on the job certainly can be graded out with high marks all around.
It’s also clear that folks in and around Keyser High School and the Keyser community have not seen the last of Lori Wilson as she most certainly will continue to contribute and give back in the many ways she sees fit.
Today, Lori Wilson passes the torch to the very capable Shawn White. No doubt White will pick up right where Wilson left off, continuing on the path of success for Golden Tornado Athletics.