As Messiah College transfers to Messiah University, they also transfer from one athletic director to another. An athletic director of a college or university has many duties and responsibilities necessary for success in the athletic department. They oversee the teams, coaches and student athletes involved in athletics on campus, as well as manage budgeting and facilities. 

Ridge Hagar, a senior with a dual major in sports management and accounting, is a member of the men’s swim team and highly involved in Messiah’s athletics. He is a student worker in the athletic communication department and serves as the Vice President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee for Messiah. Through his involvement in the athletic programs, Hagar was given the opportunity to know the current athletic director, Jack Cole.

“I would describe Jack as a genuine, outgoing and transparent individual. Personally, I appreciated Jack’s presence at athletic contests throughout my years at Messiah and felt that his presence alone showed athletes that he cared about their success,” Hagar said.

Cole has been Messiah’s athletic director for the last decade and has been a positive influence on student athletes through the years.

“If you ever attended a Messiah sporting event, there was always a good chance you’d hear ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond, but what you likely didn’t know was that Jack always requested it be played and it brought him a lot of joy seeing the students and fans get amped up when it played,” Hagar said.

As Messiah says goodbye to Cole, they are excited to welcome new athletic director Sarah Gustin-Hamrock to Messiah University.

Similar to most student athletes, I am most excited to just get to know Sarah and see what different ways she shows her passion for the Division III experience and what she envisions for Messiah sports,” Hagar said.

Gustin-Hamrock spent her youth in ballet and piano but transferred over to volleyball because her mother insisted on her learning the value of teamwork. Standing at  6’2”, she excelled in volleyball and fell in love with the world of athletics, enough to make it a career.

Messiah has a great reputation in the athletics world and initially when I heard the job was open, I was interested because I knew of Messiah in terms of it being a faith-based institution,” Gustin-Hamrock said. “It was really important for me in making the steps of becoming an athletic director that it was a good fit for me in philosophy and Messiah is a great fit for me in that respect.”

Gustin-Hamrock also has an 18-month-old daughter that influenced her decision to move to a more rural and spacious area. She was drawn in by the way Messiah welcomed the involvement of families on campus and is excited to have her daughter grow up in this environment.

“I spent 20 years in athletics and have done everything from being a student athlete myself to being an unpaid assistant coach. I’ve been at D1, D2, D3, all over the place, and I think that I was really looking for a place to call home and I feel that Messiah is that place,” she said.

Gustin-Hamrock is looking forward to student interactions and getting to build relationships with Messiah students, whether they are athletes or not. In meetings, she was blown away by the “intellect, maturity and competitiveness” of the Messiah student-athletes she met.      

“In terms of what I want everyone to know is that I care deeply about the students and I strongly believe that athletics contributes to the greater good of the institution. Athletics has a way of bringing people together and unifying them, so that is my intention with whatever programming I bring to the institution,” Gustin-Hamrock said.

Gustin-Hamrock has exciting opportunities planned for Messiah in the near-future, particularly in the field of student leadership.

“My expertise is in leadership development so I plan to start a leadership academy for student athletes and I’m really excited about how it will help develop student athletes holistically from the time they arrive to the time they graduate,” Gustin-Hamrock said.

She has many ideas to enhance and benefit the student athlete experience at Messiah and can see how the environment is already a great place to help students grow.

In terms of athletics in relation to COVID-19, Gustin-Hamrock foresees possible changes in relation to the current guidelines.

“The health and safety of our student athletes, and all of our students, is of utmost importance so that’s going to be one of the first things we tackle,” she said. “Look for some creative ways for us to get our fans involved this year.”

While Gustin-Hamrock is joining Messiah’s staff at a challenging time, she is enthusiastic about the opportunities and blessings she will be given at the new university.

“The more I learned about Messiah, the more that I felt like it was the place I wanted to be,” she said. “So, I’m grateful and excited and ready to be there in a couple of weeks.”