High School Sports

His teams have filled Sehome’s trophy case, but he earned this award because he cares

Sehome coach Kevin Ryan watches the 2009 Mariners cross country team practice in the Sehome Arboretum in Bellingham. Ryan has been selected the 2016-17 National Coach of the Year in girls track and field by the NFHS Coaches Association.
Sehome coach Kevin Ryan watches the 2009 Mariners cross country team practice in the Sehome Arboretum in Bellingham. Ryan has been selected the 2016-17 National Coach of the Year in girls track and field by the NFHS Coaches Association. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Nice guys don’t have to finish last. Just look at Sehome coach Kevin Ryan – his teams have finished first more times than he can count on his fingers and toes, combined, yet he’s still “one of the good guys,” Mariners athletic director Colin Cushman said.

“He’ll do anything you need – he helps me at the scorer’s table in basketball; he helps at girls swim meets,” Cushman said. “He’s a part of the community at Sehome, and he’s definitely put in a lot of hard work. You feel good when you see somebody like that get recognized.”

The recognition for a high school coach don’t get much larger than this. Ryan has been selected the 2016-17 National Coach of the Year in girls track and field by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association, according to a NFHS release Thursday.

“It’s a really a nice compliment to our program,” Ryan said. “Anyone who knows track and field knows that it’s more than one coach. I wish I could take the single name off the award and put the whole staff on it, but it is a very nice honor for me and the staff, as a whole. ... I think it’s a compliment to what the entire coaching staff has built over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Ryan is “well deserving of the award,” Cushman said, after the coach guided the Mariners to the Class 2A state track and field title last May with 57.5 points, beating out second-place Fife’s 52. It was the fourth state title the girls program has won since Ryan became head coach in 2010 after a long tenure as an assistant coach, and Sehome hasn’t finished outside the top two since he assumed the top spot.

At the state track meet, Mary Carbee won individual titles in the discus and shot put, Abby Johnson won the crown in the 3,200 meters, while the Mariners combined to claim six other medals.

I think it’s a compliment to what the entire coaching staff has built over the past 10 to 15 years.

Sehome track coach Kevin Ryan

Meanwhile, Ryan guided the Sehome boys track team to an eighth-place finish at state.

Ryan, a Sehome graduate who started as a volunteer assistant at the school in 1995, also is the head coach of the Mariners boys and girls cross country programs, both of which won state titles in November and have combined to win 17 state titles since 2005.

The Mariners have some of the highest turnout for the sport, something that Cushman attributes to Ryan’s philosophy as a coach.

“There are a lot of things that make him a great coach,” Cushman said.“I think what stands out is his ability to connect with every kid. ... He welcomes kids that are at the entry level of the sport and gives them the same attention and shows he cares about them just as much as he does for his elite athletes. ... He builds incredible relationships with kids, and when they know you care about them, they’re willing to do extra things to maximize their potential.”

Ryan has brought that same mentality to the classroom as a social studies teacher at the school the past few years after taking a long road to get there as a substitute teacher and working a few years on a year-to-year basis.

It feels good for the entire Sehome community to see one of our own recognized.

Sehome athletic director Colin Cushman

“There’s nothing he’s done that hasn’t been the hard way with a lot of sweat and tears,” Cushman said, “and you feel good when somebody like that succeeds.”

The NFHS has recognized top coaches since 1982. Winners must be active coaches in the year they are honored. Each state is responsible for nominating deserving coaches based on record, affiliation with coaching organizations, involvement in other school and community programs and coaching philosophy, and top coaches are selected from eight geographical sections for consideration for the national award.

Ryan was the only coach from Washington State to earn National Coach of the Year honors this year. Former Lynden Christian girls basketball coach Curt DeHaan received the NFHS national award in his sport in 2014, and Sehome’s Don Helling won it in boys swimming in 2008.

“I think it just solidifies what we already know about Kevin,” Cushman said. “He’s part of the Sehome culture, and though he’s only taught there three or four years, what he does for the Sehome community is tremendous, and we’ve seen him grow. It feels good for the entire Sehome community to see one of our own recognized.”

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