Kim Witte and Victor Cruz show two heads are better than one


Sports Editor

Dateline: Imperial

They're new. They're two. And they're Tigers through and through.

After Imperial High institution Mike Swearingen stepped down as the school's athletic director midway through the school year, officials took an unorthodox approach to filling the post.

Enter Kim Witte and Victor Cruz.

Witte, an Imperial High physical education teacher and varsity head softball coach, and Cruz, the school's head of security, a member of the Imperial Unified School District's attendance review board and an assistant football coach, were made co-athletic directors at the start of the second semester, a job neither had done before.

Some six months later, Witte and Cruz operate like a well-oiled machine and have even started finishing each others' sentences.

Whether the dual-A.D. system will return for a second school year remains to be seen, but Witte and Cruz agree it's been a heck of an experience.


"I've enjoyed working with Victor. It's been an eye-opening experience for both of us I think. As coaches you only see so much of what happens," Witte said. "Once you become A.D. you see much more behind the scenes."

Said Cruz: "Being athletic director is a tougher job than people think. There's a lot of rules you have be aware of, and you have to take care of every sport not just take care of your own sport."

"It's worked out great," said Witte, a sentiment echoed to the letter by Cruz … and at the same time.

Witte added, "It's a unique situation, and I think we made it work. The other athletic directors (in the Imperial Valley) have made it easy. They've been very helpful."

Still, the Tiger tandem hasn't been without their hitches. The novice A.D.s said they've had to on more than one occasion draw from the experience of the other Valley athletic directors.

"There's been numerous occasions when I've called (other A.D.s) to ask questions about things we didn't know about," Cruz said.

"The learning curve is straight up," said Witte, after which the pair broke into laughter.

Although Cruz said he's likely going to get in trouble revealing this juicy tidbit, one of the biggest helpers to the Imperial A.D.s has been Swearingen, who both said is one of the most knowledgeable figures with whom they've worked.

"I don't want to people to think we just took this thing over. We had a lot of questions," Cruz said, adding Swearingen could quote laws and sports precedents on a moment's notice.

When Witte and Cruz took over, Witte said, Swearingen "could have said no to helping us and ‘You sink or swim.' But he helped us a lot."

If a similar A.D. structure is brought back in the fall, Cruz said Thursday he would only agree to it with Witte by his side.

"After doing this with Kim, I wouldn't want to do it with another person," he said.

"Kim is a great co-A.D. She's a great softball coach," he said, referring to her underclassmen-laden varsity softball squad that made it into the second round of the CIF San Diego Section Division IV playoffs.

Of Cruz, Witte said, "I think Vic's very approachable. I don't have a problem asking him to take care of this or that. I never feel like I'm burdening him.

"That was extremely helpful because I was coaching varsity and couldn't do a lot of the game management," she said.

A military brat most of her childhood, the 30-year-old Witte finished her high school years in Albuquerque, N.M. Moving to Milpitas with her parents after graduation, she attended Ohlone Junior College where she was a starting catcher for the school's softball team for two years.

Transferring to Humboldt State University, she also was a starting catcher for two years, earning all-conference and all-region honors. She then helped coach the team, taking it to a national championship in 1993.

After earning her bachelor's degree in 1995 and doing a year of student teaching, Witte and her husband, Karl, packed their belongings and came to Imperial High, one of three schools to which Kim Witte applied. She's been a Tiger since.

Thirty-four-year-old Cruz, a 1986 Central Union High graduate, was a member of the Spartan varsity football squad, a Valley powerhouse at the time.

After graduation he went play football at Grossmont Community College in El Cajon but was injured.

Upon returning to the Valley but not really doing much, he starting coaching, helping then Spartan head coach Jack Eatinger with his football squad.

"I remember him saying to me, ‘If you want to coach at Central, you better get back in school,'" Cruz said.

He returned to school, graduating from Imperial Valley College and moving on to San Diego State University. It was around then Cruz took up security duties at Central under then school Principal Joe Maruca.

When Maruca left to take the helm at the Imperial Unified School District, he asked Cruz to come along and head up security at the high school. He's also been there since.

Sports, family and the combination of sports and family have made up a large part of Witte and Cruz's life.

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