Since arriving at William Chrisman High School four years ago, Tyler Rathke has methodically built a well-respected track and field program.

And it’s not just Bears fans or track and field devotees who believe that.

Rathke and members of his team and coaching staff were honored by Independence Mayor Eileen Weir and members of the City Council as Tuesday, Sept. 4, was declared William Chrisman High School Track and Field Day at Independence City Hall.

“I’ll have to admit, I was nervous,” Rathke said. “The whole thing only lasted a few minutes, but I was really nervous, and excited and proud of our program.”

Rathke had contacted Weir through social media, letting her know that the Bears had produced four individual state champions since his arrival in 2016 – James Bailey, discus, 2016 and 2017; Jordon Woods, triple jump, and Daniel Carson, discus, 2018.

The Bears have also produced many state qualifiers and medal winners to go along with the state champions.

“I heard back from Mayor Weir right away and she invited me and our coaching staff and athletes to a City Council meeting and gave us the award. To think, in the history of a school as old as William Chrisman, this is the first time a team has had a day named for a team. That’s just amazing.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids – past and present. James (Missouri Western, football) and Jordon (Pittsburg State, track) and Daniel (Texas, football) have all gone on to college and are doing big things and we have so many athletes this year we’re already preparing for the (spring) track and field season.

“I told the mayor and city council that while our four state champions since 2016 are boys, we return the No. 1 discus (Jacque David) and No. 3 triple jumper (Camryn Holloman) this year and we are looking for big things from them.

“What was so cool about Tuesday night, was that so many people other than Chrisman students and coaches, sports writers and track and field fans learned about our program and were really surprised at the success we’ve had.

“It was just a great night to be a Bear.”