Tanner Anthos and Kyler Sellers compete at the Lyman meet March 26. Photo by Ryan Berger
LYMAN — The Herald caught up with the running man, Red Devils coed track and field head coach Ryan Berger, who became the head EHS cross country coach a few seasons back, and after serving as a track assistant, assumed the head coaching job vacated by Lance Morey, Berger’s own high school coach, beginning with this spring season. Toss in the title of indoor track head coach at EHS, and nicknames abound, from running man to Racin’ Ryan.
Track is a shortened season inside the Cowboy State’s borders, and even more so for those in high elevations like Evanston. Berger had previously stated his satisfaction with times and marks posted so far, considering the bulk of his teams’ practice has taken place indoors.
Red Devils coed track and field didn’t travel far this past Tuesday, March 26, with Uinta County neighbor, Lyman, playing host to a meet. The Red Devils were just going to send underclassmen, but with the lack of time “on the track” and the opportunity to do so, opted to take the full complement.
“I’m glad we did,” Berger told the Herald. “Number one, it was a beautiful day, weather-wise, and number two, we came away with another pre-qualified athlete for the state track and field meet, giving us three.”
Freshman Brinae Sanders, as reported, not only qualified for state in her first meet in the girls long jump, but broke Erin Kirby’s EHS school record, leaping 17 feet, 4.5 inches. Dane Kelly has met the mark in the pole vault for the guys, and Cole Wilkinson achieved the qualifying standard for his discus toss of 147 feet, eight-inches at the Lyman Invite; Wilkinson qualified in the discus and shot put last season.
With spring break right around the corner, Berger acknowledged the need to give his track kids a break. Many came right out of other sports with not even a full week of practice under their belts to compete in the first meet.
“We’ve got three-sport kids, an athlete who’s a football player, basketball player and track kid,” the coach explained, “or a volleyball, basketball and track competitor. They go right from one sport to another, and by the time they roll into their third sport with us, they need a break.”
The break will be granted for many around spring break, but Berger reported 22 kids will head back to Orem for a huge meet this Saturday, March 30, with upwards of 55 teams competing at the UVU campus, after which most of them can take a brief break. The rest of Saturday, and the following Sunday through Tuesday, are set aside for a sports break to coincide with spring break, with practice to commence the following Wednesday, as Berger reported at least a partial team will take part in the Roy Peck Invitational in Riverton on April 6. A pre-qualifying time or mark is necessary to compete this Saturday at UVU.
When the conference season rolls around, Berger expects Natrona County’s sprinters to battle Rock Springs’ distance runners in scoring a lot of team points in boys track and field, but not to count out the Red Devils.
“We’ll be in the mix, I’m optimistic,” Berger believes.
On the girls side, Kelly Walsh has assembled a dominant and deep team, according to the Evanston coach.
“I haven’t seen a team like this in years,” Berger said. “They’re loaded all over the place, and Kevin Williams does a great job with a wonderful staff of assistants.”
Speaking of assistants and mixes, there are both familiar and new faces dotting the track and field coaching staff with the Evanston High School.
“I put it out to hire upon taking over,” Berger professed, “looking to assemble a staff which best fit me.”
Berger had 26 applications, with some former assistants opting not to return, such as first-year head basketball coach, Roy Barker, which is understandable.
Mike Fackrell and Susan Dean, a former Lady Red Devils thrower, who also threw at Weber State. are working with Evanston’s Red Devils and Lady Red Devils discus and shot put throwers. Berger marvels at Fackrell’s technical expertise, picked up when a football injury at Chadron State allowed Fackrell to pick up specialized knowledge, and he’s just plain excited for the one the kids call “coach Sue,” having a chance to return to her roots and give back, like Berger and so many others have done.
Training and teaching Evanston’s long- jump and triple-jump competitors, along with coaching the girls 400 meter competitors, is Marrie Johnson, ”another former Lady Red Devil, whom I had the opportunity to coach early in my career,” Berger shared. “She was a sprinter for us, and attended Jamestown to run track. She brings a wealth of experience and excitement into our program, and I’m so happy to have her as a part of our staff, with her enthusiasm for track.”
Another returner is Mandy Lonsway, remembered as a competitive three-sport athlete when known as Lady Red Devil Mandy Kelly. Lonsway went on to become an All-American pole vaulter at BYU.
“Another fantastic addition,” Berger asserted, genuinely excited about his staff. “Mandy is excited and, of course, she’s our pole-vaulting coach, and also works with our sprinters.”
Paul Rickbeil is the new face in the crowd, but he’s very familiar with track and field, having coached some standout athletes in the Lone Star State of Texas, and neighboring Colorado, at the prep level, prior to relocating to Evanston. Berger reports Olympic qualifiers and competitors are among the elite Rickbeil has coached.
“He’s very knowledgeable in the 400 events, and will also take over for coach Barker with our high-jumpers,” Berger clarified. “We’re excited to have him become a part of our team of coaches.”
Berger was able to talk his former high school track coach, Lance Morey, who resigned after decades at the helm following last season, into sticking around as an assistant.
“I’ve been his sidekick, he’s been my coach, a mentor and I just needed him to stick around, to be here and be a part of this,” Berger elaborated. “He’s who I turn to when I have questions. He guides me, keeps me on course and calm.”
Berger reported Morey would work with the hurdle-runners and sprinters, as he always has.
The Red Devils track and field coach seems every bit as excited as the enthusiam he is charged with creating, and successfully generates among the fans, as one of the public address announcers for Red Devils sports.