Varsity Track and Field

Track titans seeking repeat titles with daughters leading the way

The father-daughter track pairings of Greg and Abby Smarsh (left) and Tad and Maggie Remsberg (right) are looking to make history in 2018.
The father-daughter track pairings of Greg and Abby Smarsh (left) and Tad and Maggie Remsberg (right) are looking to make history in 2018. The Wichita Eagle, Courtesy of Andale athletics (left)

There are many threads that connect the Andale and Newton high school track teams, but they stand out.

Andale's Abby Smarsh and Newton's Maggie Remsberg are coaches' daughters. They are friends and rivals. They are winners.

Andale is going for history this year, and the Smarshes are at the forefront of it. The Indians won the boys and girls team competitions in 2017 in Class 4A. If they do it again this year, which they likely will, they will become the second-greatest co-ed team in Kansas history.

Only Liberal in 5A has won the boys and girls team titles in consecutive years, and that was a streak of seven years.

And for Newton, the Railroaders are going for their third straight girls team title. Maggie was on the team as a freshman and is seeking to win it again with her dad this season.

Both father-daughter pairs have been on the track together for years, since each daughter was about half the size she is now and probably a quarter as fast.

Andale coach Greg Smarsh said it has been an extremely rewarding process watching his daughter grow as an athlete and young woman.

"She sets a great example," Smarsh said. "She's out there in the fall. She's out there in the cold when the guys are practicing football. She is just running around the track by herself."

Newton coach Tad Remsberg coached his son, Kadin, last year. Remsberg said though he loved working with him, there is a special connection between a father and his daughter. Maggie said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"She's a daddy's girl for sure," Remsberg said. "I ride to school with her every morning. I have her in class four days a week before practice. Then we go to practice and take her home after practice. I'm around her a lot, but it's a great situation. We have a great relationship."

Abby and Maggie are sprinters. Last year, Maggie finished second in the 100-meter hurdles to a senior; fifth in the 300-meter hurdles; second on the 4x400-meter relay team; and fourth in the long jump.

Abby was third in the 100-meter hurdles and first in the 300-meter hurdles.

Point being: Both are incredibly talented, and both dads say their daughters are among the hardest-working athletes they have coached.

They met at a meet several years ago. At first, there was a real rivalry. Competing in the same events at the caliber at which they perform, they certainly weren't friends through the first few races. They watched each other in warm-ups and built a bit of tension.

But they gained respect for each other.

"We both hate losing," Maggie said. "We use each other to hit our (personal records) all the time. We started talking more, and she's just a cool person. We want the best for each other for sure."

That bond has transcended them and grown between their dads, too. Smarsh and Remsberg are friendly rivals. They typically meet up at a handful of meets throughout the year and the competition always makes for good battles.

Newton coach Tad Remsberg has created a powerhouse program on the Kansas high school track scene. He and his daughter, Maggie, have been instrumental to the Railroaders' recent success.

This year, they faced each other at the Valley Center Invitational. Andale topped Newton on both sides of the team standings, but Maggie and Abby split in the 100 and 300 hurdles.

A few weeks later in El Dorado, Andale beat the Railroaders again, the daughters splitting wins.

"We both have such a high level of respect for each other's programs and our daughters," Remsberg said. "That has been really special."

Both programs are even built similarly.

Each team relies on a handful of coaches who have legitimate college track experience, not football coaches who use track as an offseason workout. Both team encourage their athletes to play multiple sports as a means of becoming more well-rounded for track season.

And both lean on internal marketing tactics.

Success breeds success, but at Andale, track is more than a second sport for many of the Indians' athletes. Abby, for example, is committed to run at Wichita State upon her graduation.

Andale's achievements are plastered throughout the school as a constant reminder of the flagship program Smarsh has created in his 16 years there.

Track is an extremely individual sport, but Newton's Remsberg tries to preach the importance of team competition as often as he can. Maggie said that constant reminder motivates her.

"The littlest point matters," she said. "I truly believe that mindset has helped our individual events as well. You want to do well, not just for yourself, but for the team."

Smarsh does the same thing. He has a countdown to the state meet on his phone that he reads off at practice every day.

As of Friday, that number was down to 14. Two weeks until one of the greatest spectacles in Kansas sports comes to Wichita.

Andale and the Smarshes, Newton and the Remsbergs and all of the other teams from each classification will descend on Cessna Stadium on May 25. By the next day, the Indians and Railers will know whether they made history.

The ride has been special. Both dads and both daughters would say that. For the Smarshes, that journey ends at state. Abby, a senior, will run her last races in Andale colors against one her great rivals.

Smarsh said he hasn't taken this journey for granted.

"It's been fun, and that has always been the main thing," he said. "There have been some challenges. Emotions run high sometimes, but I couldn't be more proud of her.

"She has done everything I have asked her to do, and she has gone even farther than that."