Troy Harding didn’t see this coming, but when the opportunity to become the new track and field coach at Rockhurst High School came along, the longtime Blue Springs South coach and calculus teacher couldn’t say no.

“A big decision like this wasn’t even on the radar a few weeks ago,” said Harding, who has been a part of the boys track and field program 18 years and the cross country program for 17. “I have been a teacher 25 years, and felt like if I was going to make a move, this would be a good time to do it.

“Then, I saw the posting from Rockhurst and felt like I owed it to myself and my family to look into it.”

He got in contact with Rockhurst athletic director Mike Dierks, and he was hired last week in his new position as a coach and advanced math teacher.

“This week has been the hardest one for me,” Harding explained, “because we have two young men going to state – Navon Currie and D.J. Frost – and I don’t want any of this to distract from what they are trying to accomplish. I know it’s a small number, but it is really special to go to state with two quality young men like Navon and D.J.”

Currie earned a pair of state berths, taking second in the 110 hurdles (15.17) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.35) at last Saturday’s Class 5 Sectional 4 meet at William Chrisman High School. Frost advanced in the javelin with a fourth-place finish (149-8).

“Both of them have kind of been battling injuries – Navon with a hamstring and D.J. with a groin – and two or three weeks ago, we weren’t sure if they would be able to compete and advance to state. We’re really proud of each of them.”

And Tim Michael, the longtime activities director at Blue Springs South, is proud of the job Harding has done the past 18 years.

“Troy has been a pillar at South,” Michael said. “He is an excellent math teacher and has been an integral part of the staff for so long. He was a Jaguar long before me. The knowledge, experience and credibility he has within the running community is not something you can replace.

“He is such a contributor to South – and a terrific leader in the coaching community. He has a great rapport with our kids. The toughest thing is that he is such a good person – an excellent influence on kids. We talk a lot about protecting your school’s tradition, its legacy, and few have been a bigger part of that, in Jaguar lore than, Troy.

“But we certainly support him and the best for his awesome family – a huge retirement congratulations – but he will be missed. Looking back, it seems overwhelming to try and thank him enough.”

Kyle Plummer, Harding’s assistant for several years, will take over the boys cross country program. The administration is interviewing candidates for the boys track and field job.

“Now that I’m leaving, people are asking me about my best memories, and there are so many,” Harding said. “But what I will remember are all the kids, our administration and coaches. They made it so special to be a part of Blue Springs South High School.

“And I will always treasure those memories.”