Woshner retiring after 19 years as James Wood's CSA

624e03c756aee.imageA man known for his prolific distance running has decided to no longer push the pace.

Frederick County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that Craig Woshner has decided to retire as James Wood’s coordinator of student activities after 19 years at the position, effective July 1. The 52-year-old Woshner was an interim CSA for one year after taking over for Jerry Tingle in 2003, then took on the job permanently.

Woshner has spent his entire 30-year professional career at James Wood after the Pittsburgh native graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, where he was an All-Big East distance runner.

A 1996 participant in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, Woshner began the first of 11 years as an English teacher in 1992 and took over as head cross country coach in 1993, a role he held through the 2003 season. After two years as an assistant, Woshher was the head coach for the track team from 1995-2002.

In an email, James Wood principal Sam Gross said there is no specific timeframe for hiring Woshner’s replacement.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Woshner said that after 19 years, he felt the time had come to step away from a job that requires a lot of time and dedication with all the evening, weekend and holiday work involved.

“It’s about time to step back and kind of relax a little bit and take on a different role,” Woshner said. “Spend more time with my own family here and in Pittsburgh.”

Woshner said the adjustments created by COVID-19 have made the last two years particularly challenging.

And in the last year, James Wood’s softball field was renovated, and the winter sports teams were displaced from Shirley Gymnasium in late December because of a design deficiency that was discovered during the planning for the $72.8 million renovation of the school. The softball team played their 2021 home games in Stephenson’s Stonewall Park and the Colonels held the rest of their 2021-22 winter sports events at Frederick County Middle School. Woshner said the school renovation will also create some upcoming adjustments.

“[With COVID] all the uncertainty, and the rescheduling, and not knowing where we were day-to-day with things, it was a lot of stress,” Woshner said. “It was mentally and physically exhausting. And then dealing with softball and the gym, it just kept rolling. Part of the job is obviously dealing with weather-related changes, and things come up. But for over two years of that, it took its toll. I just thought it was the right time for somebody else to take over and kind of lead the athletic department.”

Whoever takes over for Woshner will be faced with the challenge of continuing one of the finest eras of success in the history of James Wood athletics.

The Colonels have achieved numerous firsts and ended lengthy droughts since Frederick County was cleared to participate in interscholastic sports in March of 2021 after a one-year hiatus due the COVID pandemic.

In the spring of 2021, the football team defeated Sherando for the first time since 2008 and Millbrook for the first time since 2014 in its only two games. The Colonels followed that up in the fall by beating both teams again en route to their first playoff berth since 2014 and most wins (seven) since 2009.

Also last spring, the boys’ soccer team won its first regional title, set a record for wins (15) and advanced to its first-ever state semifinal, while the girls’ soccer team won its first-ever district tournament, first-ever regional game, and became the first Winchester-Frederick County team to play in a regional final. James Wood’s baseball team won its first district tournament since 2007 and qualified for regionals for the first time since 2008.

In 2021, the boys’ cross country team added two more district titles to give them four straight (and added two more state appearances to give them three straight) and the girls’ cross country team won its first district title since 2002 when Woshner was coach.

This past winter, the boys’ swimming team had its highest-ever regional finish (second) and the girls’ team placed 10th in the state led by one of the best individual state performances in area history from Lauren Masters (two runner-up finishes).

Other programs like volleyball and softball (both regional qualifiers in 2021 — the volleyball team was 2014 state finalists), golf, wrestling, girls’ basketball and track & field have been consistently successful for much of Woshner’s tenure. Woshner believes the program-wide success was sparked a great deal by one of his first head coaching hires. The late Walter Barr returned in 2005 for the first time since guiding the football team to the 1970 Group AAA state championship. Barr delivered James Wood’s first winning season in 25 years in 2006 and took the Colonels to the playoffs in 2007.

Simply put, James Wood has come a long way since Woshner’s first year of CSA in 2003-04, which is when Millbrook opened and took a chunk of James Wood’s current and future talent. It was the second time Woshner experienced that type of transition, as Sherando opened in Woshner’s first year as cross country coach in 1993. Woshner had two returning runners in 1993 at James Wood, but he built the program up into a power and the boys won a state title in 2002, the only team state title since 1970 at the school. Woshner believes the Colonels might have repeated in his final year of 2003 if they hadn’t lost people to Millbrook.

“All of our sports took a huge dip when Millbrook opened, and it was a long rebuilding process,” Woshner said. “It was great to see when we got the right people in the right places, whether it was Walter Barr with football or Jim Carden with girls’ soccer, later on Brian Sullivan with boys’ soccer, Todd Baker with softball. I think we’ve done a good job of getting the best coaches out there, and they turned a lot of those programs completely around.

“To see us now, it feels good to be leaving the program where a lot of our sports are at an elite level.”

For Woshner, his role as a CSA during the COVID-19 pandemic was made even more difficult because he felt bad his children — both of whom compete in cross country and track — weren’t able to compete in athletics for their schools. Nathaniel is now a James Wood senior who will run for NCAA Division I Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Emma is a freshman for the Colonels.

“It was hard to not feel a little personally responsible [for them not competing],” Woshner said. “We had to make some difficult choices. Everybody in the school system does. That’s part of being in a leadership role. You have to make tough decisions.”

It might not have been easy, but Woshner felt the James Wood community was as understanding as it could be. And James Wood’s coaches appreciate how much Woshner helped their programs during the pandemic, and are also thankful for the numerous other ways in which he’s helped them get the most out of the school’s athletes.

A Pittsburgh native like Woshner, Sullivan started working as coach for James Wood in the 2012-13 school year and became head boys’ soccer coach in 2015. He said Woshner has been a great mentor throughout his time at the school. In the past year, Sullivan has also been one of Woshner’s assistant CSAs.

“During COVID, a lot of coaches had to think outside the box at times, and he was always trying to help us think of solutions and ways that could follow the protocols,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a challenging two years, and he’s worked his tail off to manuever that and done a really good job.

“[As assistant CSA], he’s included me in everything. That’s really been important. You learn through experience, and he would even let me work events before I was assistant AD. But just this past year, showing me the ins and outs and giving step by step instructions the first couple of times, it definitely took a lot more effort on his part, but it’s really helped me substantially learn and grow.”

The football team was on the rise with a 6-4 record in 2019, and James Wood fifth-year football coach Ryan Morgan said Woshner’s support during COVID helped the team continue its rise when it returned to game action in 2021.

“At James Wood, we probably worked through COVID as much as possible and pushed for the kids to have opportunities,” said Morgan, who added that Woshner has always been supportive of the school’s athletes and also holds them to high standards for academics and behavior. “We were trying to do things safely, and we arranged outdoor workouts when I think some of the other schools were not able or willing to do that. He really pushed for the kids, and I think that was helpful for our success back in the spring of 2021 and this past fall.”

Given his children’s involvement with cross country, Woshner said James Wood’s success in that sport has been particularly meaningful. James Wood second-year cross country coach Matthew Lofton said Woshner took joy in setting up courses for both high school and middle school cross country, and doing whatever he could to put cross country and track athletes in positions to succeed.

“There were times when I would go to him for advice because I respect him as a coach and a runner, and he wouldn’t give it, which was interesting,” Lofton said. “I would say, ‘What do you think of this?’ and he would say, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ I think I was looking for affirmation, but he was showing he has trust in me and just let me do my thing.”

Though Woshner will be retiring from James Wood, students will probably continue to see him on a regular basis. In addition to watching Emma compete, Woshner plans on applying to be a substitute teacher for FCPS. Woshner also coached James Wood’s distance runners in indoor track this year, and he’d like to apply to do that in the future as well.

Those are just a couple of examples of how much Woshner will continue to care about James Wood.

“It had been 18 years since I had been actually coaching a team, and it was fun,” Woshner said. “There’s nothing negative about anything with the job or with the school. I still want to be a part of it. I just want to take a huge step back.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at

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