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Dave Hollen had a head coaching itch that needed scratched. The Palmyra Area High School cross country program had a head coaching opening that needed to be filled.

Maybe not a match made in heaven, but pretty close.

By a unanimous vote of the Palmyra school board on Thursday night, Lower Dauphin track and field assistant Hollen was appointed as the Cougars' new head cross country coach. He will receive an annual salary of $3,070.

Hollen, 52, succeeds the wildly popular and successful Barb Mellinger, who stepped down earlier this summer to take a teaching job at Milton Hershey.

Among Mellinger's many accomplishments during a decade-long run was leading the Palmyra girls to a state title in 2012, so Hollen has a tough act to follow.

But he seems more than excited to take on the challenge.

"I coached cross country at Milton Hershey at the middle school level for a while, and I've been coaching track at Lower Dauphin for about 10 years," said Hollen, a Palmyra resident who teaches at Dauphin County Technical School. "Last season during track I got the itch to go full time again and be a head coach, before I knew Barb was leaving and this thing was opening up.

"I had some doubts at first if it would work, with the commute from Harrisburg and my school schedule, but to get an opportunity like this with an established program with good community support, I just thought that was a really attractive thing."

A few added attractions were the fact that Hollen's daughter Sarah is a sophomore member of the team, and that Mellinger's staff — Don Papson, Justin Notario, Katie Snyder and Olivia Farabaugh — would be staying on.

"I think she'll probably be my biggest critic," Hollen said with a laugh of coaching his daughter, which he'll begin doing in earnest when practice starts Monday. "She'll let me know what she thinks. It'll be fun. She really loved Barb, so I don't know how she would have reacted to any new coach. Since it's dad, that's a whole new dimension to this thing.

"The kids will know right away that I'm not Barb, so they'll have to get used to that. But the same assistants will be back, so that'll smooth that transition out. I like the program that (Mellinger) had installed, so I can't foresee making many changes to the everyday procedures. I'm just really excited to get started."

WHITE STEPS DOWN AT CEDAR CREST >> In other coaching news, Cedar Crest athletic director Rob Snyder confirmed on Thursday that Ryan White has stepped down as the Falcons' baseball coach.

White, a Cedar Crest grad and former Falcon shortstop, spent three seasons at the helm, posting a 25-35 record, including a 5-15 mark this past season.

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