When Tyler Rathke arrived at William Chrisman High School, he made an immediate impact as the coach of the boys and girls track and field teams.
“Coach Rathke made track cool,” Camryn Holloman said. “He made it so cool, everyone wanted to be on the team. It was the cool thing to do, because he loved us as people and made us feel special. We weren’t a team to Coach Rathke, we were his family, and it was a family that loved each other and cared about each other and I think that’s one reason why we’ve been so successful.”
Back-to-back state discus champion James Bailey brought a lot of attention to the Bears program and a new throwing area located south of the football bleachers is the envy of many track coaches in the metro area.
The boys recently won the Independence City Championship (110.33 points) for the third year in a row, while the girls finished second to a strong Fort Osage team (117-102) and totaled more points than they had in the two previous years.
While his players praise the young man Blue Springs coach Joe Cusack calls, “Not only one of the best young coaches in the area – one of the best track coaches in the state,” Rathke quickly backs off from center stage and focuses the attention on his Bears family.
“This school has been around a long time,” said Rathke, as the school was founded in 1888 and was originally called Independence School, while the name Chrisman High School was adopted at a new location in 1917, “and we have four young men and women on this team who hold school records.
“Four – that’s unbelievable. And the sky’s the limit for these kids. They love track, they love Chrisman and we love working with them. It’s special for all of us, and it’s only going to be more, and more special.”
Holloman holds the school record in the triple jump with a leap of 36 feet, 10 inches.
“Honestly, being a part of this team is more special than holding a school record because this team means so much to me,” Holloman said. “I can’t imagine school without this track team.”
Her three teammates nod in agreement.
“When something is taken away from you, it means so much more to you,” said Woods, who tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in the last football game of his junior year. “I didn’t know if I could make it back. And I think one reason I worked so hard to come back was to be around all my friends and coaches on this team.
“Did I ever think about breaking any school record? No, I just wanted to work hard – work harder than anyone had ever worked – and get back to help this team.”
And on a cold, blustery night at this year’s Independence City Championship, he broke his own boys triple jump record with a leap of 47-3.75.
“When I heard what I jumped I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I am blessed, truly blessed to be healthy and back with our team.”
David is just a freshman and holds the school record in the discus, 132-1.
“I don’t know how long I’ll hold that record,” quipped David, “because my little sister Jaleena is an eighth grader and she told me she’s going to break it next year. She hears me and my sister Jennifer (another member of the Bears track team) talk about our team and Jaleena can’t wait to get up to Chrisman and be a part of the team.
“I just feel so blessed to be a Bear at this time in my life, with all my great teammates and our great coaches.”
The most recognizable member of the Bears team is Daniel Carson, one of the most heavily recruited Division I football players in the history of Eastern Jackson County and the metro area.
Carson, who has signed with the University of Texas, holds the school mark in the shot put with a throw of 57-11.
“That was one of my goals this year, to break Dean Rohr’s mark (57-4) in the shot put. I was able to accomplish that and got to shake his hand at a meet this year. He came to watch me throw and that was a great honor for me to meet him and talk to him about throwing the shot at Chrisman.”
Many wondered if Carson would come out for track after signing the Division I football letter of intent. He said that was never a part of his game plan.
“I played basketball because I wanted to help the team win and I am throwing the shot and discus because I love this team and want to help this team win, too,” Carson said. “Like everyone has said, we’re a family and nothing is more important to me than my family.”