Varsity Track and Field

Replacing an icon, first-year track coach has Andale still beating Kansas’ bests

As Tyler Ryan lifted the first-place plaque, the Andale boys shouted so loud it could be heard from 50 yards away.

“We beat Carroll,” they yelled.

Last year, Bishop Carroll won the Class 5A boys high school track and field state championship with 119 team points and a 40-point margin. Andale, a school with more than three times fewer students, beat the Golden Eagles on Saturday at the Valley Center Invitational to complete a sweep.

The Andale boys held on for a 10.5-point win over the Golden Eagles, and the girls pushed past Class 6A power Hutchinson by eight. The invitational fielded some of the top teams across all classes in Kansas.

Most impressive: It was the Indians’ first meet away from home under first-year coach Tyler Ryan.

Team results: boys

  • Andale, 166.5

  • Bishop Carroll, 156

  • Newton, 98

  • Garden City, 90

  • Hutchinson, 60

  • Valley Center, 59

  • Clearwater, 36.5

  • Arkansas City, 34

Team results: girls

  • Andale, 143

  • Hutchinson, 135

  • Bishop Carroll, 120

  • Newton, 110

  • Valley Center, 76

  • Garden City, 67

  • Clearwater, 24

  • Arkansas City, 24

Ryan took over this season after Greg Smarsh retired from coaching during the offseason to spend more time with his family and watch his daughter, Abby Smarsh, compete at Wichita State.

Smarsh coached Andale for 25 years and led the Indians to 10 state championships, including a sweep in 2017 and three straight boys titles from 2013-15.

Smarsh became a coaching icon in Kansas high school track. He turned Andale into a perennial contender and one of the most attractive coaching jobs in the state.

Upon his retirement, he said he gave his input on who he believed should take over the monster he helped create. He tabbed Ryan.

“He had an immediate impact,” Smarsh said. “I knew there would be no transition period. I knew he would hit the ground running.”

Ryan said he knew what kind of job he was walking into. He served as the relays coach on last year’s staff and helped the Andale girls to a Class 4A sweep in the 4x100 and 4x400.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

He has spent time at Wellington, Trinity and most recently Holton. He said this is a great challenge, but he doesn’t have to attack it alone.

“There are eight total coaches,” Ryan said. “Because we have a high number of kids come out, they are getting coached by what I consider to be the strongest coaching staff in the area. So if the kids want to work hard, they are going to have success.”

There were five individual state champions from a year ago at the Valley Center Invite and many others who placed in the top three. None of the returning champions were from Andale, but the Indians’ depth was on full display Saturday.

Andale won six events and had 24 top three finishes. Almost all the damage was done in the field events.

Jayden Cates won the girls pole vault with a 11-foot-6 vault, beating last year’s Class 5A champion, Carroll’s Taylor Linn, by a foot. Cates’ teammate Jaden Eck came second at 11 feet even.

Cooper Venjohn won the boys discus at 148-0.25, and his teammate Carson Fair was just behind him in second at 144-9. The girls went first-second in the discus, too. Katelyn Fairchild won it at 133-3.75, and Jacy Anderson was runner-up at 128-2.75.

And in girls javelin, Andale swept the top three. Fairchild won it at 138-8. Samantha Marx came second at 129-8. And Trisha Doll was third at 106-9.

Smarsh said from the time Ryan came to the program, he could tell the kids took to him. And with one of the biggest track coaching staffs in Kansas, especially for a smaller school, that was important.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

“When you know the situation, and you know you have really good assistant coaches, it just takes the pressure off of you,” he said. “You don’t feel like you have to run around and coach every single spot.”

Ryan walks into a lot of momentum. He said he isn’t looking to change the way the ship has sailed for 25 years and would be foolish to try.

The Andale girls are shooting for their third straight state championship. Last year, they won by 16 points over Paola and the field in Class 4A. Before that, the Indians topped Maize South by 11.

With the Andale boys’ win over Carroll, they look to be strong candidates to get back atop the team podium in May. Their top contenders will include Buhler, the 4A champion, and Kansas City Piper, who took second.

Ryan said Saturday was a good benchmark and an important step for himself and his team, but there is more to come.

“In the weight room, we have all the awards posted up on the wall,” he said. “I’m constantly looking up and seeing the history. What coach Smarsh was able to get going was truly phenomenal, and we are just trying to keep it going.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.