William Chrisman High School, which was originally called Independence High School, was founded in 1888.
That means the oldest school in Eastern Jackson County is 132 years old.
Now, let this statistic sink in for a few minutes:
Since Tyler Rathke took over the boys and girls track programs five years, the coach – who iconic Blue Springs coach Joe Cusack calls, “The hardest working and most innovative young coach in the state” – has developed eight athletes who hold school records.
Not bad for a five-year period, when the school is more than a century old.
The boys school record holders are: Khalil Jones, javelin; Daniel Carson, shot put; James Bailey, discus; and Jordon Woods, triple jump.
The girls record holders are: Camryn Holloman, triple jump; Jacque David, discus; Reana Lagrone, pole vault; and Seila Tali, javelin.
Bailey was a two-time state discus champion and Carson and Woods won their respective events at state once.
And here are a few fun facts from Rathke:
David, a sophomore who will miss this season after tearing her ACL playing for the Bears basketball team, is less than a foot from the school shot put record.
Woods’ ACL injury prevented him from developing in the long jump or the coach believes he would have held that mark, too.
“This year we anticipate Wyatt Leutzinger to break our pole vault record as he jumped 14 feet this summer and our record is 15-6 (15 feet, 6 inches),” Rathke said. “He's a junior and Lagrone is also back. Pole vault will be a strength for us as will the throws – as usual.”
So it’s easy to see why Rathke woke up Monday morning – the first day or practice for spring sports – at 4 a.m. and could not go back to sleep.
“When I finally got to school and looked out my window at a 60-degree day, I thought back to last year,” he said chuckling. “There were 2 inches of snow on the ground and it was sleeting and snowing. I think last year we were indoors the first two weeks of the spring training season.
“This year, we’re going to be outside and that’s going to help our athletes. It’s just beneficial to be outside and to be excited about practicing outside.”
While he is not sure how many athletes will finally make up his boys and girls teams, he was looking at monster numbers the first day.
“We had 155 students turn in physicals online,” he said. “When I saw that, I thought it was wrong. I thought it was a mirage. That is by far the most athletes we have ever had sign up for our sport.”
Perhaps those lofty numbers and great success during Rathke’s short tenure can be summed up by Holloman, who is now competing at the collegiate level.
“Rathke came to our school,” she said, “and made track cool.”