Greg Leland has passed the baton off to Anthony Chapman, a fitting analogy for the former track coaches.
Chapman was named Sierra High’s new dean of athletics during Tuesday’s Manteca Unified school board meeting. Leland succeeded Vern Gebhardt, the school’s first athletic director, and manned the post for six years until he was promoted to vice principal in July.
Chapman will continue his duties as activities director, a postion he accepted last year. The 30-year-old Sierra graduate has followed the footsteps of Leland, formerly his neighbor, teacher and coach whom he now reveres as both mentor and friend.
“It’s very humbling,” Chapman said during Sierra’s season-opening football game Friday. “This sounds kind of silly, but I don’t want to let (Leland) down and I don’t want to let the school down — that’s how important it is to me.”
Chapman admits he is nervous about his new role, but Leland has full confidence in the kid who used to hitch rides with him to school.
“I’m very proud of everything that he’s done, and he being our new athletic director means a lot to me,” Leland said. “Anthony is picking things up quickly, so I know he’ll do a great job for a very long time.”
Chapman is a Timberwolf at heart. He was, after all, a part of a committee of then-future Sierra students that came up with the school’s mascot.
“We were almost the Sierra High Huskies, believe it or not,” he said.
And being a Timberwolf is a family affair. His wife, Erika, is a 2001 alumna and is currently the school’s cheer adviser. They have three kids.
“Sierra means the world to me and my family,” he said. “We bleed blue.”
Sierra opened in 1994, and Chapman, a 1998 graduate, is a member of its first class of four-year students. He was on the varsity basketball team for three years, ran track for four years and ultimately earned the Male Senior All-Around Athlete honor.
“Yeah, they couldn’t find anyone else,” he said in his usual aw-shucks tone.
Chapman went on to attend Brigham Young University and switched majors several times before settling on pursuing a career in education. He began teaching Spanish at Sierra in 2005-06.
“I was offered two jobs on the same day: Sierra High School and Pitman (in Turlock),” Chapman said. “That was an easy decision.”
In his second year on staff, Chapman served as an assistant track and field coach under Steve Unterholzner and became co-head coach alongside Lisa Shrock in 2008. Sierra has blossomed into a track powerhouse over the years, capturing seven Sac-Joaquin Section boys championships — second most in the SJS behind McClatchy of Sacramento and Vallejo. The Timberwolves have won three Division-III titles in the last four years, and four in the last five.
“We just tried to establish a strong program, but really we were continuing what had already been done,” Chapman said.
Sierra as a whole has quickly developed a deep tradition in all aspects, and Chapman is a big part of it. He is one of many former students who have returned to mold current Timberwolves and those of the future.
“We have a lot of alumni that are back here teaching and coaching,” Leland said. “It’s a good feeling, because it shows that they bought into what we’re doing at our school and they got something out of it. Now they are coming back wanting to contribute to the culture. It’s neat to see that.”
Said Chapman, “Giving back to this school is what’s important to me. It’s what shaped who I am.”