Wilson has been home to Sonny West for 20 years, including the last 13 at Fike High where he has taught history, coached football and track and raised his kids as well as help raise hundreds of others.
But life comes with changes and now the 52-year-old West is saying goodbye to Fike to take a teaching and coaching job at West Carteret in Morehead City.
“Very, very hard,” West said in a telphone interview Tuesday about his decision to leave Fike. “You know, yesterday I was cleaning up my classroom and taking all that stuff down and seeing those bare walls, it was tough.”
West, who was the defensive coordinator for the football team and head track and field coach at Fike, said he told the football team Monday before the Golden Demons’ summer workout began.
“I let them know I was leaving and it was very, very difficult to leave some of those kids that I’ve known forever,” he said. “It is tough because a lot of those kids that are seniors or rising seniors have been through the pandemic together, playing football, a lot of them run track so I’m with them pretty much year round and it was a very, very difficult thing to do.”
West coached all three of his children at Fike in the pole vault. His sons, Ian and Gage, both were pole vaulters and track athletes and football standouts in the last decade. Ian West was an unprecedented four-time NCHSAA 3-A pole vault champion before moving on to vault at Harvard. Even West’s daughter, Ava, was a pole vaulter for the Demons this past spring. However, she will attend North Carolina School of Science and Math for her last two years, so the timing was right for Sonny West to look east to a new horizon.
East Carteret High principal Jay Westbrook, a former assistant principal at Fike and a longtime friend of West’s, alerted him that West Carteret was seeking a football assistant coach. After interviewing with West Carteret principal Joseph Poletti, West was offered the position of history teacher and football assistant coach. He will also work with the track team and veteran head coach Marshall Windsor.
“I told him that if I didn’t take it, I’d be stuck here in the perfect job,” West said of his Fike position. “I’m the defensive coordinator of the football team, the head track coach. Life is very, very good but living closer to the ocean will not be a bad thing.”
West, who was inducted into the Grayson County High Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018 in his native Kentucky, was a pole vaulter first at the University of Louisville, then Tennessee before finally spending his last two years at Western Kentucky University. He taught for nine years in Kentucky before moving to Wilson in 2002. West taught history and coached football and track – and one season of cross-country – at Hunt High before moving over to Fike in 2010 in the same roles, minus cross-country.
Fike became a second home to West with both sons leaving their marks athletically and academically and Ava off to a great start there as well. Sonny West revealed that many of his Fike colleagues were delighted with her opportunity to attend NCSSM but upset she was leaving.
“My heart is so much in that school because it’s meant so much to me and my family,” West said. “I’m leaving a lot of family because some of my co-workers are incredible people.”
One of those co-workers, Fike athletic director and football head coach Tom Nelson, arrived the year after West did. Nelson assured that West’s departure would leave a void at Fike.
“He had an opportunity, so I hate that he’s leaving but I understand and appreciate all that he’s done and meant to Fike and as a friend,” Nelson said. “Yeah, we’re going to miss him.”