Zach Lemelin steps into new role as Athletic Director

Former teacher, coach, and assistant athletic director settles into “dream job”


This school year was more than the start of the 2022-23 academic year; it’s also the start of a new era in Sanford athletics. This summer, Zachary Lemelin has stepped into the Athletic Director role previously held by Gordon Salls for the last 28 years.

Lemelin is no stranger to Sanford High School. He’s been a teacher at the junior high, an SHS football coach and was previously SHS’s Assistant Athletic Director for more than eight years. He transitioned into his role over the summer and has already made an impact on campus.  

“It’s an incredible experience every single day,” said Lemelin. “It is really cool to be here in this brand new building, with coaches who are beyond excited to be with the athletes every day and the kids have so much excitement to be out on the field playing.” 

After learning of Salls’s plans to retire, Lemelin felt prepared to step into the role.

“Mr. Salls is an incredible mentor to me,” he said. “He’ll answer the phone, answer the texts, whatever I need or any questions that I have. So I appreciate all that and he’s held in incredibly high regard across the state… So I certainly hope I can follow in his footsteps, and one day have that same impact.” 

Lemelin was able to learn quite a lot of valuable lessons while working under Salls while still working daily with the athletes. He was able to see how changes that were made in the department were directly affecting Sanford athletics firsthand. 

Interviews were held in May of 2022 in front of a committee of 15 people. These individuals included teachers and coaches in the Sanford District along with some community members and school board members. In a competitive pool of applicants, Lemelin found himself in front of Superintendent Matt Nelson.

After getting the job, he knew there were some changes that he wanted to make. 

One of the first of Lemelin’s goals is already well underway: the Sanford Athletics Leadership Council. Lemelin believes it is very beneficial for athletes to have a voice. The council allows athletes – specifically captains at the Varsity and JV level – to influence their peers. If they notice issues within one of the programs, he wants them to feel as though they can come to him to work through fixing the issue. 

Along with the Leadership Council, Lemelin is working toward a more organized, consistent academic eligibility system, stressing that in a student-athlete, the student comes first. He’s working on holding students more accountable for their grades. 

Additionally, Lemelin wants to improve student sections at games, describing a vision of a smart, safe and fun student section, and “Not something where people are just coming to talk trash and be there to make it a negative situation.” 

While there have been many positive events already occurring, there are still challenges that Lemelin is facing. 

According to Lemelin, his biggest concern right now is making sure that, especially in his first year, he doesn’t go over budget, as well as starting to get the budget lined up for upcoming years to make sure that teams have enough money in order to buy equipment that they need to be successful. He would like to figure out if there are things that they’d be able to change in order to help the budget.

All of this, on top of being the “new guy”. 

Even though he has been with the Sanford School system for at least ten years, Lemelin knows that there is still so much for him to learn and understand. He is no longer the assistant, so now people are dependent on him when it comes to making decisions, which, according to him is a big challenge. 

Some differences he has noticed between the positions is that his phone rings a lot more (his wife can attest). Secondly, he is supposed to be the person who knows everything, whereas when he was the assistant it was not as imperative for him to know the answer to every question.

Luckily, he is able to continue learning as he goes and also leans on Becky Cleveland, the athletic administrative assistant, who is incredible. Lemelin jokes she may know more than he will ever know, but he is embracing the differences in his newfound responsibilities. 

Zach Lemelin and his wife, Val, with their two boys, Colin and Ty.

Now for the first time in ten years, Sanford High’s varsity football team will be without Lemelin for their homecoming game. Lemelin coached alongside Mr. Fallon and many other coaches for the better part of a decade. As the athletic director, he is unable to continue coaching, which is bittersweet according to Lemelin, as he loved coaching. But now, he’s doing his “dream job.” 

“It is a really really cool job that I’ve wanted for the last 10 years. So it’s great to be living my dream,” he said. 

Head Football Coach Mike Fallon is excited and proud for his next chapter, but misses having Lemelin at his side.

“He was dependable and passionate about coaching,” said Fallon. “He takes tremendous pride in his work. As the new Athletic Director, you can already see those attributes taking shape.  

“Most importantly,” Fallon continued, “he cares about our students and works hard to provide the best experience he possibly can.  We are very fortunate to have him lead our Athletic Department.”

Sanford High School is booming with pride this homecoming week and Lemelin has worked tirelessly to keep it safe and fun, coordinating with Pep Club and Student Council often. 

The road ahead is bright and Lemelin knows he’ll continue to learn and grow into his new role.

 “The future of Sanford is so bright. Being a part of watching our students and athletes grow up makes it really fun, knowing I can play a small part in that.”

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