After a search by the Madison Metropolitan School District this spring, administrators decided to stick with Alicia Pelton as the athletic director at Madison West High School.
Pelton had the interim tag removed from her title Monday, June 1. She took over in a substitute role as the Regents’ athletic director in April 2019 for Devon Peterson, who was on medical leave at the time, then agreed last September to remain on as interim AD after Peterson officially stepped down.
Pelton, 50, is the only female athletic director in the Big Eight Conference.
“Gender equality in athletics is what I’ve been doing for awhile,” she said. “One of my favorite times is sitting together in meeting with the other ADs. They’re all very enlightened and conscious about diversity and opportunities for all kinds of people. This group really gets it.”
A longtime physical education teacher, Pelton was the founder of a successful youth recreation program – My First Sports – in Madison and Milwaukee. She is also the founder of the Athletic Leadership Alliance and one of the founders of the Wisconsin women’s soccer advisory council.
Pelton laid out five long-term goals at West in an interview with the Star – build culture, grow opportunities, find strong role models as coaches, build the youth programs that feed into the high school and find solutions for space issues with the school’s facilities.
“I don’t have full control over all of the goals, but I can focus on creating trust and stability,” she said. “Those goals take patience and buy-in from the community, boosters, staff and students. I have to make sure I’m accountable and transparent.”
Pelton decided to work in athletics after an extensive playing career. The 1987 Janesville Craig High School graduate and 2011 inductee of the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame won nine varsity letters in basketball, cross country, tennis and track and field.
She still owns Craig’s triple jump record (37 feet, 2.5 inches) and twice advanced to state in the event, placing eighth as a senior and 12th as a junior. The Cougars’ top cross country runner as a sophomore and junior, Pelton decided to play tennis as a senior. She became a conference, regional and sectional doubles champion, all while helping Craig finish fourth at the 1986 state tournament.
Pelton competed in track and field as a triple jumper and heptathlete at the University of Wisconsin, with aspirations of qualifying for the Olympics. She is still among the top eight triple jumpers in program history, despite suffering a jumping-related injury during her freshman year.
A 5-foot-9 guard, Pelton played in the Swedish Elite Basketball League in 1993 and 1994 at the same time her husband – John Byce – was playing hockey in the Swedish Elite League.
Athletic family genes
Byce, a 1985 Madison Memorial graduate, tallied 77 goals and 165 points in his four-year career at the University of Wisconsin. He scored a hat trick in the 1990 NCAA Championship Game to help UW to its fifth NCAA title, then went on to play 10 professional seasons.
Pelton’s son, Ty, is a rising senior hockey player at Wisconsin. The former Madison Memorial star was named 2015 Big Eight Conference Player of the Year and won the Joe Pavelski award for the best forward in Wisconsin as a senior. Pelton-Byce played two seasons at Harvard before transferring to UW for his junior year.
Pelton’s daughter, Kaya, is a rising junior at Madison Memorial. She helped the Madison Metro Lynx girls hockey team to its first state appearance and runner-up finish in Division 1 last season.
Two AD openings in Big Eight
Middleton and Madison La Follette are still looking for athletic directors.
Former Verona athletic director Mark Kryka served as interim athletic director at Middleton for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year while Cardinals AD Bob Joers battled pancreatic cancer. Joers passed away May 15.