BILLINGS — Longtime administrator Jon Wrzesinski has been hired to be Hardin's athletic director.
"It’s jump right in the fire and make decisions about fall," Wrzesinski said. "We’ve been around so much and experienced so much, you learn to be resilient."
Wrzesinski, 54, has worked in schools not just across Montana but across the world. His most recent stop was in Vietnam, where he was the AD at Saigon South International School.
Before that, Wrzesinski was the superintendent at Baker and Ennis, and he spent 10 years in Harlowton, where he was AD, taught PE and coached. He also coached track and field briefly at the University of Mary, and he took an AD position in Shanghai, China, last decade.
Wrzesinski is a Stanford native who earned all-state selections in football, track and wrestling. He won two Class C state track titles and set the Class C pole vault record. He was an all-American track athlete and all-conference quarterback at North Dakota State College of Sciences, and he played both sports at the University of North Dakota, where he earned all-American honors in the pole vault and the decathlon. He still holds the UND decathlon record.
Wrzesinski was named one of 406mtsports.com's "Montana Greats." His father, John, earned the same distinction for his rodeo career that began in Ryegate.
Wrzesinski and his wife, Michele, expected to spend a while ("two, three, five, 10 years," he said) in Vietnam, but the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans. The country went into lockdown in February, and the Wrzesinskis realized they might be stuck there with no ability to travel to the United States. Coming home was important because they wanted to watch their children, Cleet and Wrenzi, compete at Dickinson (North Dakota) State (both run track, and Cleet plays football).
Vietnam "was kind of our dream destination when we semi-retired," Jon Wrzesinski said. "This changed, just like it changed everybody’s world."
Wrzesinski and Michele were finally able to move back to Montana in May, and their plans remained uncertain. In June, Michele took the strength and conditioning coach position at Hardin, and she and her husband almost took over Fort Custer Golf Club, Wrzesinski said. But that fell through.
When Hardin's AD position opened up last month, Wrzesinski was a natural fit. Hardin Public Schools superintendent Chad Johnson was looking for someone with experience, Wrzesinski said.
"It’s going to be a tough year for everybody, especially in the athletic realm," Wrzesinski said. "You’re trying to hit a moving target."
Montana has added more than 100 positive cases of COVID-19 almost every day since June. Bighorn County, where Hardin resides, has the state's highest rate of active cases per capita.
The Montana High School Association released its fall sports guidelines on July 27, and the season was set to begin as scheduled with many safety measures. On Thursday, 406mtsports.com reported that Class AA nonconference contests would be canceled for every sport besides golf.
Wrzesinski expects more changes to be made as the weeks progress. He's ready to get to work at the successful Class A school.
"Mike Erickson’s done a great job, and he’s put stuff in place," Wrzesinski said. "It’s a work in progress. People just need to learn to be patient."
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