Kelly Walters, the ringleader for the North Central boys track team that won its fourth straight State 3A state championship last week, has resigned.
“The credit goes to all kinds of players,” the son of Hall of Fame Rogers coach Tracy Walters said. “Lots of different coaches … and, of course, the kids. … There’s no way I can take credit of producing it on my own. … You put a lot of people together that care about kids and down the road good things happen.
“Because of the influence of my dad, I didn’t know why we couldn’t make it successful. I knew it would take time, but I thought we could battle for a Greater Spokane League title, which we never won. I never had visions of being a state power.”
Walters, a science teacher, took over the program 13 seasons ago – at the same time Darren Nelson took over the girls program, and the two had 30 athletes between them.
Nelson, now an administrator at Mead, hit the state podium first, with the help of Walters’ daughter, Anna, a sprinter with a second place in 2005 and a championship team in 2006.
The boys team finished second in 2007 and won the past four 3A titles, joining just two other big schools with four straight championships.
“It’s very, very challenging. Exhausting,” Walters said of coaching track. “The combination of teaching and being a head coach of a sport like track is almost too much to do. You just hang on, survive, but you have to let other things go.
“The bottom line is it’s been an incredible experience … but that’s not my only dream, goal in life. I’ve invested 13 years into it and it’s been awesome, but it’s time to open the doors, invest my energies in something else. I’m not sure what that’s going to be at this point.”
Walters made the decision before the season, which was before he had heart surgery.
The success of the teams has been the distance program he helped head cross country coach Jon Knight build. However, the Indians have had state placers in many different events.
State champions under his tutelage include Andrew Wordell (800 meters in 2011), Ben Johnston (1,600 and 3,200 in 2010), Andrew Kimpel (3,200 in 2009) and David Butler (110 hurdles in 2008).
Anna Walters holds the school record in the 400 and was on the Indians’ record-breaking 400- and 1,600-meter relays.
“It’s like we tell kids in sports all the time, ultimately sport is just a game, things are more important, friends and family and how we impact others,” Walters said. “As much fun as high school is for kids, we want them to grow up, graduate, and hopefully do important things.
“I feel with this senior class … I’m graduating, I want to move on before I’m past the point of effectiveness and have the opportunity to do other things.”
Elsewhere, Barry Sartz, who turned Newport High School into a hurdling hotbed, has turned in his resignation.
He will remain in his middle school teaching position.
The Grizzlies had both the boys and girls high hurdles champions in the recent State 1A meet in Aric and Arielle Walden. The girls also finished third and the boys fourth in the team race.
In the last eight seasons, Newport has had the boys 110 hurdle champ seven times and the 300 hurdles winner twice. They have won seven other hurdling medals, including three silvers and a bronze when a teammate won the event.
The boys won the 2005 state championship with a record 98 points.