University City

Countryside Montessori athletics has grown up

Chuck Nusinov kicked off the ceremonies and addressed the students, parents and faculty as a group for the first time at the annual Countryside Montessori School athletic banquet May 14.

There had been banquets in the past, but this was different. It was the beginning of a new era.

"You miss 100 percent of shots you don't take," Nusinov, the new head of school, said, referring to an old Wayne Gretzky quote. "Our students and our athletes are going to take our shots."

"Mustangs are going to take their shots, and we are going to make them."

Debby and Martin Haugh opened a school with six preschool students in 1981 and have been active participants in building it since.

Now, 30 years later, the vision has come to reality. With more than 500 students spread among three campuses, Countryside will graduate its first senior class this year.

That is quite an accomplishment.

"It is outstanding what we have been able to do here," athletic director Nick Nichols once told me. "This is Debby and Marty's dream and I have been the lucky one to see it through."

"When we started, we had roll-away baskets and we were the laughing stock of the league. Now, we are competitive in many sports and have started a strong athletic tradition, and this year we have our first senior class. I couldn't be more proud."

Nichols' pride extends to the Haughs. Martin retired last year. Debby will retire this summer. Nusinov and Nichols, along with his wife, Lindsay, will lead Countryside into the future. What lies ahead for the school is promising and growth is inevitable.

Not many other schools have fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders lettering in three sports.

Countryside does.

Not many high schools have six seniors in their graduating class.

Or 33 students in the entire upper school.

Or 71 percent of their middle or upper school kids playing a sport.

Countryside does.

Not many schools have the pride for their programs and put their students and their athletes on such a pedestal. It is great to see and a model of how scholastic sports should be run.

The Haughs took a shot 30 years ago.

They scored.