(June 27, 2019) -- Fritz Kilian is used to surprising twists and turns in his adult life, beginning with his graduation from college and return to the Rochester area.
"I went to a very large college for two reasons," he said recently. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to study so I looked for a big school with a lot of majors where I also had the opportunity to play lacrosse. So I went to Michigan State and became a phys ed major my sophomore year and thought I'd be a teacher and coach in Webster for life."
He was heading down that path in successful fashion when family and friends started talking to him about pursuing advanced degrees that would set him up for the administrative roles he would take on at his alma mater and then a decade at Brighton as the athletic director, another desirable and rewarding destination.
And then an opportunity arose three years ago at a school with one of the richest sports traditions in all of Upstate New York, the place where Dave Martens and Jim Zumbo each spent decades as giants in the field of athletic department leadership and a district with 36 varsity teams.
Kilian knew quickly he had found the right job.
"The transition was extremely enriching because of everything that I learned in my days as a coach in Webster and as an athletic director in Brighton," he said. "And I was able to tap into the resources that Jim Zumbo had left for me. Jim is a dear friend. We were colleagues at the Monroe County Athletic Conference table for a decade. ... And for me it's just been a very humbling experience to come to this place and work with everybody else with the ultimate goal to always improve."
Improving on the latest accomplishment will take some doing. The New York State Sportswriters Association is announcing today that Fairport High School has won the 11th annual Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship. The competition for New York State Public High School Athletic Association is named in honor of retired Post-Standard sports writer and long-time NYSSWA editor Neil Kerr.
Fairport, which had two previous top-10 finishes in the Kerr Cup, triumphed in the most hotly contested race in history as 11 other schools finished within nine points of the Red Raiders for the overall title. Fairport scored 50.5 points to edge perennial Kerr Cup contender Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (49.67), Pittsford Mendon (48.75), Cornwall (48.5) and Fayetteville-Manlius (47.5).
Defending champion Victor remained in the hunt for the championship right down to the final day of the 2018-19 school year and finished in a tie for sixth.
"I've got to be honest, I'm a little shocked," Kilian said. "If you'd said Section 5, I would have believed it. I think we had enough success (to contend) there, but for New York State? Wow. That is so good for our community. That is outstanding."
With so much balance across the state contributing to the tightly packed scoring, Fairport had to make the most of its opportunities and rely upon some good fortune as well. The school won NYSPHSAA championships in boys volleyball and bowling, placed second in boys lacrosse and picked up points in field hockey by winning sectionals to advance to the state quarterfinals.
And then there was cheerleading, one of the tradition-rich sports at the school. Fairport fielded a co-ed squad for the first time, and the Red Raiders pulled off a crucial third-place finish at the state competition. The scoring was so close that afternoon at Rochester Institute of Technology that a single infraction could have pushed Fairport down one spot at the meet and down to a third-place tie in the Kerr Cup.
At 51, Kilian is not so far removed from his teaching days to lose an appreciation of how demanding it can be to coach in an era in which parents in most districts may be both more