Familiar Face - Sue Prahl

Series: Familiar Faces | Story 6

October 30, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy Photo

Niwot's Game Manager Sue Prahl has been a fixture at Niwot High home sporting events since the 1980s.

It's 6 p.m. on a Friday night in late October, and the unseasonably warm afternoon is quickly giving way to an autumnal chill as the sun slips behind Longs Peak to the west. At Everly Montgomery Field in Longmont, Niwot High Game Manager Sue Prahl grips her handheld radio as she scans the grounds, looking for the game's officials, or "black and whites," as she calls them, due to their striped uniforms. There's still an hour to go before kickoff in the upcoming football game between Niwot and conference rival Northridge, but the punctual Prahl is eager to get all the pieces into place.

"We can't start the game without them," she said. "People don't have a concept of what it takes to put something like this on...it can be intense at times."

Prahl is certainly in a position to know. Though she might not look it to an outsider, the 70-year old grandmother-of-two is right in her element on the busy sidelines. For the past three decades, the self-described "sports fanatic" has been a familiar face at Niwot High athletic events, first as a proud mom of her own three Cougar athletes, and later as the school's facilities and game manager. Now in her 25th year with the Niwot athletic department, Prahl said there's no place she'd rather be on a chilly fall night than cheering on her beloved Cougars.

"I absolutely love sports," she said before Niwot's final home game of 2019. "I was the team mom for every sport my kids were in and it just continued on... I would stay forever, but whether they'll continue to have me, I don't know."

Prahl moved to the Niwot area from Minnesota nearly 50 years ago, after her husband Marvin was transferred by IBM. They eventually built a house nearby and settled in to raise their three children.

The three Prahl siblings went on to become multi-sport athletes at Niwot High starting in the 1980s, when sons Kip and Erich joined the Cougar football and wrestling teams. In 1990, Erich led the Cougars to an upset win over Montrose in the Class 4A state football championship game, a memory his mother clearly still cherishes. Later, daughter Hanni participated in three sports at Niwot, including her mother's favorite, volleyball. However, Prahl's best memories from those years don't necessarily involve the sports themselves.

"Back when my kids were playing, the players and the parents were all like family," she recalled. "We went to games together, we stopped and ate on the way home together; for wrestling, we'd take all the boys to dinner, and it was just such a family unit. I just loved it-it was my social life."

Prahl's love for Cougar athletics and other activities prompted her to join the school's staff in the mid-1990s as a part-time facility use manager, charged with scheduling schools and teams. She eventually moved to full-time, and also picked up game manager duties under Niwot athletic director Rob Berry. Recently, she returned to part-time game manager status, but that still keeps her plenty busy, whether manning the admission gate for gymnastics and wrestling, running the clock for basketball and volleyball, or shuttling spectators to and from Niwot's far-flung baseball and soccer fields.

She said the most aggravating part of her job is dealing with spectators who balk at the admission fee, and sometimes it's been hard to keep her cool. Especially maddening are those fans who think Niwot should waive the charge since it has a reputation as a "rich school."

"I've heard it so often from outside, that it's just frustrating. It's really hard for people to get that concept that we have a gate charge and there's a reason for it. Some schools are worse than others, but it's just par for the course. There isn't anything I haven't heard."

Needless to say, a lot has changed for both the schools and students during Prahl's long association with the St. Vrain district, starting with the facilities, which are "nowhere near what they used to be." She also cited new technology and the district's open enrollment system, which she believes has had largely positive impacts on both athletics and academics.

Prahl has also outlasted a handful of principals and seven athletic directors during her two-and-a-half decade tenure at Niwot, although she isn't sure she should count Kevin Clark's brief stint in June of this year. In any event, Prahl's current boss, new Niwot AD/AP Joe Brown, said the longtime staffer and "amazing person" has been indispensable during his transition.

"Unofficially, her title is Master of Everything," Brown said of Prahl. "We could not do all that we do without her. As an AD, to have someone that is as detailed, works as tirelessly and is a die-hard fan is irreplaceable. I cannot count the times I have called her with a question or needed something, and she was right on it."

Prahl hasn't given much thought to retiring for good, though she does hope to pick up more volunteer work now that she only works part-time. Meanwhile, she plans to keep enjoying the many long-lasting relationships she has built during her time on the Niwot athletics and activities staff.

"What I like most is the camaraderie and the interaction that I get with the student-athletes or the student-performers," she said. "I really like that. This is a very positive atmosphere generally, and you get to know the kids so much easier."

Jocelyn Rowley


Reader Comments

DaveF writes:

Having Sue At Niwot HS has been a great gift to any family who has had family go through the school. She works harder than anyone knows because she’s so god at the task she makes it look easy, yet it’s so much work Thanks Sue, from the Fowler family. For everything you have done and continue to do.


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