He wrapped up three weeks of teaching summer school at Lakes, Harvard approved him as its new director of athletics and activities at its June school board meeting, and on Monday, Matt Rife officially began his new job at his alma mater.
Now he can turn his attention to what will always be his most important day of every summer: Aug. 5.
His wife, Erin, will celebrate her 32nd birthday.
Matt and Erin's daughter, Grace, turns 2 on the same day.
Call it a doubleheader Monday.
"If I forgot those two birthdays," Rife said, "I'm in trouble."
As Lakes will attest, Rife doesn't let his girls down.
Under Rife, the Eagles' girls track team has established itself as one of the best in Lake County. Now, when the Eagles run downstate, people outside of Lake Villa know who they are.
Lakes won the Class 2A Grayslake Central sectional in May and capped its 2013 season by successfully defending its state title in the 3,200-meter relay. Superstar twins Brittani and Danielle Griesbaum ran on both state-championship relays.
Rife, who graduated from Harvard in 1998, interviewed for the AD job at the McHenry County high school in April and was offered the position later that day. After he talked with Erin, he accepted. Not wanting to be a distraction to his track team, he didn't tell the girls he was leaving at season's end until they were riding back to Lakes on the bus after winning the sectional.
"That was very difficult," Rife said. "There were some tears on the bus, but none of them were the girls'. I had a tough time getting through it. I think that surprised them because they haven't really seen that side of me. I'm pretty straight to the point and not a crier."
Harvard is getting a likable, energetic guy who's matured into a responsible leader of young people.
Rife competed football, wrestling, track, cross country and soccer at Harvard, running downstate as a member of the Hornets' 3,200 relay team as a junior and senior. He matriculated at Millikin University in Decatur, graduated with a history major and political science minor, and started his coaching career at Mundelein, where he met Troy Parola, who would become Lakes' athletic director when the school opened.
Rife coached briefly at Lake Forest before coming to Lakes in the fall of 2006. He served as the girls track head coach the last four years. A history teacher, he earned his administrative certificate in December of 2010.
"If I were a single guy, I doubt I'd be making the move (to Harvard)," Rife said. "But I have to do what's best for my wife and Grace."
He leaves behind a school on the rise. Lakes consistently fields competitive sports teams and its academics continue to improve.
"I overheard people at the girls state meet and the boys meet saying, 'Those girls at Lakes are pretty good. Those boys at Lakes are pretty good,' " Rife said. "Five years ago, nobody knew what Lakes was. I'd hear, 'Lake Villa' or 'The Lakes.' They didn't even call us the Eagles. It was pretty funny."
Seriously, the family guy is a Harvard guy, too. That's why Lakes lost him.
"I don't think I would have made this move if it was a district that was unfamiliar to me," Rife added. "It's where I graduated, and it's close to family."
His priorities are on the right track.
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