Passing the axe: Kristen McRae, Troy Hendricks working in tandem for Jacks’ transition

Hendricks will officially end his tenure on Dec. 22, and for much of the month, he’s been phasing himself out of the AD’s office and phasing McRae in.

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New Bemidji High School activities director Kristen McRae interacts with the student section during halftime of a girls basketball game between the Lumberjacks and Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Kristen McRae endured a trial by fire – or was it ice? – last week.

A prolific snowstorm blew its way into Bemidji, pounding the mouth of the Mississippi River and its high school with feet of snow. Thus, activities had to be canceled or rescheduled, so Bemidji High School’s new activities director sprang into action.

“Every day has been a huge learning curve for me,” said McRae, who officially assumed the mantle of BHS AD on Dec. 1. “It's totally different than anything I've done before. And I think a lot of people don't know exactly what the activities office is about. It’s constant scheduling, constant problem solving. There's bussing that you're doing, and officials and all of this stuff.”

Luckily for her, McRae had an experienced aide at her side – outgoing AD Troy Hendricks, who has helmed the Lumberjacks’ activities administration for nearly two decades.

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Troy Hendricks is honored during an intermission at a boys hockey game against Sartell-St. Stephen on Dec. 9, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“To be honest, you hate to have cancellations,” said Hendricks, who was the activities director from 1999-2003 and again from 2010-present. “But it was good to go through the process, and I was there and available for her to bounce things off, and make sure that we didn't miss a beat and everything was communicated – which sometimes, it’s difficult to track it all. But yeah, she got thrown to the fire.”


McRae and Hendricks navigated it together, and now, the stage is set for Hendricks to take his final bow. Hendricks will officially end his tenure on Dec. 22, though for much of the month, he’s been phasing himself out of the AD’s office and phasing McRae in.

“We went into it with the approach of, ‘First time through, I'll do it, you watch,’” Hendricks said. “‘Second time through it, you do it and I’ll watch. And now third time through it, you do it and if you have questions, come ask.’ She's a very quick learner, and it hasn't taken her long to figure out some things that it feels like it took me years to do. She's become acquainted with the office quite well.”

“Having the ability to shadow Troy and ask him questions, I am so grateful for the time that he's been able to be there,” McRae added. “… On the flip side, kind of a blessing in disguise but not always good, the weather this past week – if I wouldn't have experienced that, that would have been another shock. You can't really plan for anything. You plan, but those plans are always evolving and changing.”

Moving on

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Bemidji swimming coaches Woody Leindecker and Kristen McRae congratulate Maris Jahner, left, and Danielle Hoven after they competed in a race during a 2012 meet.
Pioneer file photo

Hendricks has been banished to an auxiliary room in the activities area, making friends with the refrigerator and copy machine he now sits alongside. There, he’s been approached by a number of students who will be sad to see him surrender his post.

“He's been greeting a lot of the kids in the hallways,” McRae said. “They're all very sad he's going to leave. (He’s) doing his social stuff and saying his goodbyes. And really, he's a resource right now, and he's just going to stand back, watch and smile, hopefully.”

“We have a lot of wonderful kids in this building right now,” Hendricks added. “They've been so friendly. I’ve actually been surprised at how they've reached out and said thank you and/or I'm going to miss you. You don't really think of that with teenagers – they're thinking about the next game, the next lunch break, whatever. But it's been really neat to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the kids.”

Despite his departure as AD, Hendricks still expects to be around at certain BHS functions, so his pupils won’t be losing him forever.

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Bemidji High School head football coach Troy Hendricks applauds his team's performance during a 2019 playoff game against Brainerd at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“I'm going to be at events and still see so many of these kids through their graduations,” Hendricks said. “You say goodbye to them every year when they graduate as seniors, but this is a little bit different. Different kind of goodbye.”


For McRae, the way Hendricks handled the transition has underscored and deepened a bond of friendship that was decades in the making.

“I was thinking about this yesterday, and I get choked up,” McRae said. “He's been a friend. He's been a mentor. He's been a teacher. He's been like a big brother. I mean, he's filled every aspect of somebody who's there to support and help you, and not only me, but other people and students. He's done a lot, and he continually does a lot and gives and gives and gives. I'm just happy he's going to be able to retire and relax and enjoy some time at home.”

Hendricks isn’t yet sure what retirement will look like for him, but for the first time in a long time, he won’t have to rush when finding a solution to that riddle.

“There's definitely less stress involved,” Hendricks said. “At the same time, I’ve come under the realization that I am in the next chapter of my life, and what is it going to look like? And I don't think I have an answer for that yet. But I'm not in a hurry to find that answer, and I'm looking forward to taking on the next challenge and doing something different.”

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After navigating COVID-19, multiple shutdowns and still providing athletes an opportunity to compete, Bemidji High School activities director Troy Hendricks has been named the inaugural winner of the Pioneer Sportsperson of the Year award. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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