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Daunte Gouge, who has been athletic director at Parkrose High School, is ready for the fall prep sports season.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAUNTE GOUGE - Daunte Gouge becomes the newest athletic director at St. Helens High School. A new athletic director is at the helm at St. Helens High School.

Daunte Gouge replaces Ted Hirning, who is now assistant principal at the school.

Gouge worked as a teacher and coached both football and track in the Seattle area for about 23 years, spending seven years as head of the Washington State Track & Field Coaches Association. He and his family relocated to Oregon in 2016.

"My wife was born and raised in the Troutdale area, and her kids were down here," Gouge explained.

Gouge worked as athletic director at Parkrose High School for three years, and he taught for two more years in The Dalles.

Why move up northwest to St. Helens?

"I heard that this job was opening, and I had worked previously with Ted Hirning and Diana Peterson up at the high school, so I kind of jumped at the chance to apply for the job," Gouge explained.

Gouge was able to get to know St. Helens coaches while he was at Parkrose, which helped ease the transition to St. Helens High School.

"I knew coach Cory Young, and I knew some of the track coaches and cross county coaches from the past," he said. "So that part of it was an easy switch."

Gouge was always interested becoming a teacher and a coach, he recalled.

"My dad coached Little League Baseball for 40 years — kind of one of my coaching mentors, basically," Gouge said, adding, "I started coaching when I was in high school … youth basketball teams and things like that."

Now that Gouge is in place as St. Helens' athletic director, he is enjoying the fall sports season — and hoping the coronavirus won't disrupt high school sports, as it did in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

"We are still dealing with the challenges," Gouge said. "We had our first home football game last Friday night. It was a packed crowd — we had a great crowd, and a great visiting crowd from Canby. It was a really great atmosphere."

Gouge said that atmosphere is "what I've always known St. Helens as."

He added, "Every time I came out, there were always big crowds and the band playing. It's exciting to get all that going again."

Gouge looks ahead at a busy prep season at St. Helens.

"Fall sports are all up and going," he remarked, noting that the Lions kicked off the season by taking down an opponent, La Salle, against whom they have struggled in recent years. He described that 28-6 victory as a "huge win," adding: "That was an exciting way to start."

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is very much still an issue in Oregon — including in the St. Helens School District, where two entire elementary schools have had to close temporarily already this school year because of sick students. St. Helens High School has not been immune, either.

"Two games that were very winnable, we ended up having to cancel games against Hillsboro and The Dalles," Gouge said.

Gouge is pleased with the progress of the Lady Lions volleyball team, and he is looking forward to the start of league play in soccers. He said it is "exciting to play our normal full league schedules like we had in the past, pre-COVID."

Gouge likes the school support he has discovered in St. Helens.

"St. Helens has a phenomenal booster club, so being able to attend those meetings regularly, and get to meet a lot of those people that have been supporting athletics for a long time, has been great," he said.

Education is very important for Gouge.

"Obviously, that's why I'm in education," he said. "I love working with student athletes, so it's kind of fun to get to see them in the hallways and start making interactions with them, and trying to fill the big shoes left by Mr. Hirning."

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