It’s that time again.
Rio Rancho High School has a new athletic director; Vince Metzgar decided to retire.
His successor – Sal Gonzales, named to that post on April 22 — will be the sixth for the Rams, established in 1997 with Gary Hveem at the helm.
Hveem (1997-June 1, 2006) was followed – for a short time, anyway – by Andy Sweet. Tom Horton followed Sweet, who said when he was leaving that Rio Rancho was too big for him, for two years. Bruce Carver took over for Horton in 2008, then became Rio Rancho Public Schools’ athletic director when the district included Cleveland High, which opened in August 2009.
That’s when RRHS acquired Metzgar.
Metzgar grew up in Paradise Hills, where his parents had moved from the South Valley in 1961. He attended Cibola High, where he played football, wrestled and played baseball.
Football was his best sport, followed by baseball, but Cougars mat coach Joe Vivian was a great mentor, as well as a family friend.
“Because of my enjoyment of athletics, namely football at Cibola High School, my dream at the time was, t the time, to come back to Cibola; teach and coach football. That was my dream job.
“It was coaching; I wanted to coach. I wanted to do what my coaches did that had an impact on me,” he recalled. “I had just such a positive experience in athletics, that’s what I wanted to do.
“It’s weird that I ended up not coaching, although I did some coaching at (Lincoln) Middle School, but when I realized at the time at UNM (he was a walk-on defensive back for the Lobos, playing two seasons) and when I got married, the amount of hours (involved) in coaching football. I thought about a family, I didn’t want to be gone that long from home,” he said, “so I started doing some officiating – I did that for 15 years.”
Metzgar’s father, J.D. Metzgar, had been a longtime official for several sports, and his son enjoyed their time together, with J.D. in stripes or working a baseball game.
Vince Metzgar’s final game as a referee – he was the “white hat” – was at the Class 4A Goddard-Oñate state championship football game in 2002.
After he graduated from UNM, Metzgar lived and worked in a youth ministry organization in Houston for a year, then returned to New Mexico and got married; his wife, Antoinette, attended Cibola but didn’t meet till both were at UNM.
“We got back from our honeymoon and the next day I started my first teaching job at Lincoln (in 1987). It was P.E.,” he said. Among the students he could recall, Rio Rancho Police Officer John Roskos was the first that came to mind.
At the time, Lincoln was the only middle school in all over Rio Rancho, so I had the privilege of working with probably every single kid in Rio Rancho going through the P.E. Department,” he said.
After more than two decades at LMS, Metzgar was named as RRHS athletic coordinator – a title later changed to athletic director – in 2009.
Metzgar named a few mentors along the way: Hveem, Horton, Bruce Carver and Larry Chavez.
Highlights with RRHS
Metzgar said he has two great Rams highlights from his time in “the chair.”
“In 2014, we host the first six-A football championship in the city’s history,” he said. “It was challenging and rewarding, and to win that game in that fashion (a snap to the Trojans’ punter sailed out of the end zone for a safety in the Rams’ 33-31 victory).”
His second highlight came in 2016: “Wally’s win in The Pit. We were ranked 20th in MaxPreps, overall, in New Mexico. We were the 11 seed … That was a phenomenal experience.”
He won’t forget that memorable day in The Pit for another reason: He had two nephews – Clay and David Patterson – on that team.
A personal family highlight was seeing his children go through RRHS and play sports: Derek (2008), Dillon (2010) and Grace (2017).
“Derek’s a P.E. teacher now with SAPS. Dillon’s at the NMAA; he’s the assistant to the commissioner of officials. … Grace, a 2021 graduate of the Air Force Academy, is stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.”
Deciding to call it quits was his own decision.
“Coming here to Rio Rancho High School was a phenomenal, rewarding experience,” he said. “It was just time. I have three grandkids now; they’re all in town.
“The hours of this job are many and it doesn’t stop over the summer; there’s no break,” he said. “Antoinette is working at Puesta del Sol; she’s teaching first grade.”
Antoinette Metzgar will likely retire after the 2022-23 school year, her husband said, “I decided that I’m going to go out a year ahead of her.”
Metzgar said his successor will be chosen by RRHS Principal Ryan Kettler and Carver.
“I’m hoping it’s an internal hire,” Metzgar concluded.
His final day at his office will be in June
Although he can’t pass along his great memories of his time as the RRHS athletic director, Metzgar does have some advice for the next person in that chair: “Organization is very important; be organized. Take some time for yourself, because this job can consume you. … And I think, try to enjoy it, the relationships that you form in this job. That’s what I would recommend.”
Among Metzgar’s relationships: his time with boys basketball coach Wally Salata, who also arrived at RRHS in 2009.
“We both kind of broke in together,” Salata said. “We got to win a state championship – as a coach, that’s what you want. As an A.D., that’s what you want to be part of.
“He gave me an opportunity to be the announcer for the football team. We have a good relationship,” Salata added. “It’s always tough to see a guy go. I wish him the best of luck.”
Rams softball coach Paul Kohman added a similar sentiment: “I don’t know anybody that’s sadder than me but glad for him. He has been great to work with. He has been the voice of reason. He has been a great problem-solver.
“When we needed something, he has done what he can to get it,” he said. “And he’s a great person to be around.”
“I’m really gonna miss working with Vince,” said Carver, who moved Metzgar from LMS to Rio Rancho Middle School. “We’ve been together many years and some great memories down through the years and a lot of positive things have happened since Vince has taken the job.
“One thing I’ll always appreciate is his calm demeanor with parents – and his love for Rio Rancho High School. He has done a super job of supporting coaches and helping them be successful,” Carver added. “He’s such a good person and he’ll really be missed. We hope he’ll come in and say ‘hi’ once in a while.”
Metzgar’s hoping for at least one more great memory – a Rams state championship or two – before the school year ends.
Then, when the summer rolls around, he’ll “chill out.” And he and Antoinette will finally start using their small travel trailer.