Gail Connor didn't plan on making local history by becoming the first female athletic director at a Columbia County high school.
The first-year AD at Evans didn't even apply for the position.
"I guess I was kind of lucky," Connor says.
In the sports world, athletes often admit they'd rather be lucky than good - Connor is both lucky and good.
She was lucky enough to be named AD after Evans had settled some of its athletic travel issues, and she was good enough to be hand-picked last spring by principal Don Brigdon to replace former director Lee Chomskis.
"She's always been a hard worker and real focused," Brigdon said. "She looks out for the best interest of the students, and I knew she would make sure to follow all the right policies."
Once the AD position was offered, Connor didn't hesitate.
"I was pleased that Mr. Brigdon asked me if I would take the job, because I felt like he must have some confidence in me," she said last week while settling into her new role. "It's been a different year for me, but I like the work. It's a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll do a good job."
Connor may be a rookie, but she has some experience to draw from. Her husband Jim, who is now an assistant football coach at North Augusta High School, was athletic director and head football coach at Evans for 13 years.
"I kind of know the ropes a little bit because of Jim," she said. "I feel real comfortable with it. I'm pretty self-confident that I can handle anything that comes our way."
Connor graduated from Butler High School in 1972, then earned a degree in physical education at University of Georgia. She began teaching and coaching at Evans Junior High in 1976 before moving up to Evans High in 1984.
Sports have always been important for Connor. That's how she met her husband, she is an avid tennis player, and her son and daughter were standouts in several sports at Evans.
But when she was at Butler, Connor's athletic opportunities were limited.
"Basketball was the only sport they had for girls. Over the years, I've watched all the sports grow for girls and boys. They've added everything, which I think is great. Every kid that has an interest in any sport should have the opportunity to play for their school, because that makes it special."
At Evans, Connor has been involved with almost every sport. She has coached softball, volleyball, swimming, tennis and track. In fact, Connor started the school's swimming and volleyball teams. In addition to being athletic director, she also will coach the tennis teams this spring.
Still, this fall will be the key for Connor and Evans. After competing in the Atlanta-based Region 4-AAAAA - which entailed massive expenditures for travel - the school now is in Region 7-AAAAA.
Switching regions will help reduce travel, and should boost the athletic budget.
"After the first few football games, we'll hopefully have cleared our debt and gotten on solid footing," she said. "Now that we're in a new region, the secondary sports aren't traveling as much, so maybe we won't end up in the hole again."
Connor says a prep athletic director's main goal is to make their program profitable financially, but adding some more state championship banners to the gymnasium wall would be more than just a bonus.
"We always want to win, and we're always striving to do that. We have excellent coaches and athletes, and with some hard work, we'll be able to achieve more of those state championships."
Now in her 27th year of teaching and coaching, Connor expects to reach the 30-year mark and then retire.
"That's the plan right now," she said. "But who knows? That could change tomorrow."
One thing that won't ever change is Connor's unwavering support of Evans High School. "When it comes to ball games, I'm usually at most everything," she says.
So, if husband Jim and his North Augusta football team ever tangles with the Knights, what would Gail Connor do?
"We would love to have them on the schedule, but I'm a dyed in the wool Evans fan," she said. "I'd want it to be a good game, but I'd want us to win."
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