Altoona picks Colledge to lead girls’ team

The new head coach of the Altoona Area High School girls basketball program will again be one of the Lady Lions’ own.

Miriam Colledge, a 1981 Altoona High School graduate with deep ties to the program, was confirmed as the Lady Lions’ new head coach at a meeting of the Altoona Area School Board Monday night.

Colledge was recommended to the school board by the school’s athletic council, and five members of the school board – Dr. Timothy Lucas, Dick Lockard, John Klingeman, Sharon Bream, and Mary Ann Joyce Bistline – cast votes approving of Colledge’s hiring. Two other board members – John Donley and Ron Johnston – abstained from voting.

“I am happy to be given the opportunity to move the program forward, and continue the tradition of Lady Lion basketball,” said Colledge, who was a key member of Art Taneyhill’s 1981 PIAA state championship team and also served as the head coach of Altoona’s junior varsity girls basketball program last season. “I will be trying to maintain the tradition of the program, and I’m hoping that my experience as a coach and former player will help me to lead the team.”

According to Lockard, who is chairman of the school’s athletic council as well as a member of the school board, Colledge was one of five applicants – three in-house and two outside the school district – for the position, which was opened on June 9.

Previous Altoona head coach Jill Helsel, also a former Altoona basketball standout who had led the Lady Lions to two District 6-AAAA championships and two appearances in the district championship game in her four seasons as the program’s coach, had been at the center of bullying allegations by several players, many of whom transferred to other schools.

Lockard said that four of the five applicants for the coaching position were granted interviews by the athletic council.

“The council unanimously recommended Miriam Colledge,” Lockard said Monday night. “She did a very, very good job of presenting herself well.”

Altoona High athletic director Phil Riccio, who is a member of the school’s athletic council, believes that Colledge will bring a lot to the table in her first varsity head coaching job.

“I think she’s an outstanding coach with outstanding character,” Riccio said. “She’s a former Lady Lion who is going to do a lot of wonderful things with this program.”

Colledge and her husband, Michael, are the parents of three sons. Colledge teaches English at the Altoona Area Junior High School, and she has a rich basketball coaching history that includes a stint as the head coach of the Altoona Area Junior High School eighth-grade Maroon girls program from 2010-13.

Colledge also served as one of Taneyhill’s assistant coaches from the 1986 through 1988 seasons, leading Altoona’s junior varsity teams to a 54-0 record.

She sees both a bright present and future for the Altoona girls varsity basketball program.

“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity, and about the talent that’s already there in the high school, as well as the talent that is coming up,” Colledge said. “I look forward to working with these young ladies, and I hope to mold them into competitive athletes and well-rounded young women.

“My vision for this program is that the players play a style of fundamental, disciplined, and high-percentage basketball,” Colledge said. “And I hope that the community will come out and cheer us on.”