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FARMINGTON — The athletic department at Piedra Vista High School may never be the same.

Linda Crabtree, the athletic department's secretary since the school opened its doors in 1998, is retiring at the end of the month.

For 19 years, just about anyone who attended a PV game, whether as a Panther fan or a visitor, was greeted by a smile, and maybe a hug, from Crabtree.

But her role at PV went well beyond being the face of the athletic department. Behind the scenes, she did as much to guide PV athletics as anyone.

"It's hard to explain all she's done and meant to PV. She's done everything," said Frank Whalen, who started as a coach at PV in '98 before becoming the school's athletic director and who is now is the AD for the Farmington Municipal School District. "There have been seven ADs at PV, and she's been the steady person in that office. She's the mama bear of Piedra Vista High School."

For close to two decades, Crabtree's work day started a few hours before classes at PV started. She often began her day at 4:30 a.m., because once the doors to the school opened, it was tough to get anything done as her office inside the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse was a nonstop rotation of students stopping by to say hi or ask for her advice.

And it wasn't just teenagers who walked through her door, which was always covered with layers of pictures of PV athletes. Anytime a coach needed help with something, they knew where to go.

A few years ago, the PV softball team honored Crabtree by naming its annual tournament after her.

Softball coach Kevin Werth, who started at PV in 2004, said the tournament name used to change on a yearly basis, switching to match the business that sponsored the tourney. But after a while, he and PV decided to stop chasing sponsors and name the tourney after the team's biggest fan.

"We wanted to make it an annual thing, and we couldn't think of anything more appropriate than to honor basically the matriarch of our school and name it in honor of Mrs. Crabtree," Werth said. "As long as I'm here, it'll always be that."

Crabtree is the mother of PV athletics. Appropriately, her Twitter handle is @PVmamaPanther. And since '98, every player, coach, manager and student at PV could walk through the main entrance at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse, turn to his or her right, and be welcomed by her.

"When you'd walk in the door, you would always see her facing smiling to the right," said Charly Martin, a 2003 PV graduate who went on to make NFL rosters with the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. "As a student athlete at PV, she made you feel welcome and super important. She always made time to chat with you, whether it was in between class or at a game. She always made you feel very special and very important."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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