Wissahickon HS announces two new sports, five new head coaches this spring

Wissahickon High School recently announced the addition of five head coaches and two new sports – girls flag football club and a PIAA-sanctioned boys volleyball team – that launched this spring.

“We are grateful for the School Board’s approval to expand WHS sports opportunities for our school community. Participation in sports creates a strong sense of belonging and is proven to positively impact our students’ health and well-being as well as their academic performance,” said Jim Cairnes, WHS Activities and Athletics Director.      

Girls’ Flag Football: Michael Reimel

Michael Reimel is excited to serve as the head coach of the first ever WHS Girls Flag Football team. Reimel, a current classroom assistant at Wissahickon Middle School, has been involved with flag football for the last 15 years. He coached the North Penn Flag Girls team to five NFL Flag National Tournament of Champions from 2010-2015. Last year, Reimel led Lansdale Catholic Girls Flag Football Team to an 11-0 season and the first ever PA HS Girls Flag Champions. In support of growing the game, Reimel left Lansdale Catholic this year to start the WHS program from the ground up. He is the owner of Flag Football Life, one of the largest Youth Flag Football Tournament Series in the country.

“My vision for WHS Girls Flag Football Team is to teach football to a whole new group of athletes that never thought this was possible. I want to teach the importance of being a student athlete,” Reimel said.

The interest in the sport at WHS is strong. There are 25 students on the varsity team and another eight students that come to practice, but in total, 52 girls came to spring try-outs. “Flag is a sport for everyone. It doesn’t matter your size, your color, your height, or your age. It’s for everyone,” said Reimel. “When I went to the first practice, and all these girls actually showed up, some not knowing anything about football or flag football, it showed the desire to try something new, but also try something that the boys already do. It just gives them an opportunity to do something that they’ve been told all their life they can’t do.”

According to the Philadelphia Eagles, which launched a Girls Flag Football League in 2021, the sport is the fastest growing in Pennsylvania. Wissahickon is one of 22 teams joining the league for the 2023 season – a total of 38 teams across the area have committed to competing this spring.
On March 18, the new WHS team kicked off their season at the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles Jamboree. Read more about Girls Flag Football and Coach Reimel in the Eagles article.

Boys’ Volleyball: Mitchell Harris

Mitchell Harris is excited to assume the position as the first ever Boys Volleyball Coach at WHS as well as the Girls Volleyball coach.  Harris has spent the last four years coaching club volleyball at TNT and Infinity Volleyball Academy. He learned to play volleyball as a high school senior when Plymouth Whitemarsh High School launched their boys’ program and continues to play competitively on the hardcourt, sand and grass. Harris was thrilled that so many boys wanted to be involved in the team, saying “Volleyball is a life sport that everyone enjoys playing.  Learning proper technique and strategy really enhances the experience.” Now that Wissahickon High School has a girls’ and boys’ team, Harris is looking forward to the synergies of running both programs. He has already seen the benefit as many of the girls’ players have come out to watch the boys’ games. “This support raises the level of everyone’s performances.  The program is off to a great start with an extremely enthusiastic and motivated group of student athletes who are already showing improvement on the court,” Harris said. 

Wissahickon Ultimate Frisbee: Mark Grenier

Mark Grenier is the Coach/Advisor for Wissahickon Ultimate Frisbee (WUF), now in its third season. Grenier has played Ultimate in Vermont and Maine.  In the 2021-2022 season, Wissahickon Ultimate won several local Philadelphia area tournaments, including Kit-Kat, Wissahickon Warm Up, Hip-Hop, Cities and are the 2022 Pennsylvania State Champions. They finished the season playing at the High School National Invite in Richmond, Virginia, and are ranked fourth in the country. 

This season, WUF won the YULA championship in Virginia, outscoring their opponents by a total of 91-34.  No opposing team scored more than seven points against WUF.  Winning YULA secured WUF a bid to the High School National Invite in Salt Lake City, Utah in June. 

WUF’s mission is to grow the sport of Ultimate in the district.  What makes Ultimate unique is that it is self-officiated, relying on the concept of “Spirit of the Game”, which is based on sportsmanship, fair play and mutual respect between players.  Players call their own fouls, travels, picks, which provide opportunities for conflict resolution with other players on the field.  Anyone can play this sport, regardless of age, gender, or ability. “I hope that we can continue the tradition of success and develop long lasting skills that can be transferred off the field. We continue to be inclusive and create opportunities for anyone that would like to join WUF,” Grenier said. 

Unified Track and Field Team: Kevin D’Annunzio and Kristen Allegra

Kevin D’Annunzio, who serves with Kristen Allegra as a head coach for the Unified Track and Field Team is in his second year with the team.  D’Annunzio previously served as an assistant coach for the Wissahickon Middle School football team for seven years and an assistant coach for the Girls’ Lacrosse team over at WMS for two years.  When he was a student, D’Annunzio competed in basketball, baseball, and football and has a huge passion for sports in general.  He is known for his loud, energetic voice and he uses his wacky personality as a way to bring down the stress and anxiety for all student athletes. “I firmly believe that while sports should and will be taken seriously, all athletes should enjoy themselves just as much!” D’Annunzio said. “My personal goal for Unified Track and Field is twofold.  The first part is to bring awareness to the general population about the concept and mission relating to Unified Track and Field, which is to provide a sports related outlet for ALL student athletes regardless of talent level, knowledge or ability. Secondly and most importantly, is to hopefully have a successful season. By this I don’t mean by wins and losses.  Rather, I would consider the season a huge success if all my student athletes learn great sport, grow great bonds amongst all their peers, and enjoy themselves to the fullest!  Win/loss ratios and ‘personal best’ times are great, but our program’s true goal in my eyes is to build a great community of inclusion for all students in hopes that we grow as one unit and enjoy this sport without any judgement or unreasonable expectations!”

Kristen Allegra is also in her second year of coaching the team. Allegra has over 20 years of special education experience and applies the skills and lessons in the classroom to the sports atmosphere. Allegra’s calm demeanor, opposite of D’Annunzio’s energetic and wild personality, makes for a perfect balance when coaching their team.

“My personal goal is to educate the community on what unified sports means to us coaches and our student athletes. We want to show that the philosophy of inclusion doesn’t just pertain to the classroom; rather, it is an extension into the athletic world,” Allegra said. “My other goal would be to see the personal growth and excitement within all of my student athletes as the main focus of our sport is to promote enjoyment, teamwork and fair play.”