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Tim Ryan Celebrates 25th Anniversary As Pioneer Track Coach

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[image]  NO LET-UP AFTER 25 YEARS: Ann Arbor News Photographer Eck Stanger's candid portrait of Ann Arbor High Track Coach Tim Ryan, made during a Pioneer meet this spring without Ryan’s knowledge, brings out clearly many of the characteristics which have made Ryan a great teacher of boys and maker of men over a quarter of a century at the high school here. The alive, ever-watchful eyes, the bit of concern over something some of his charges are doing incorrectly, the feeling of “hurry, hurry, there’s much to be done,” are all evident in this character study of Ryan, who was taking a second out from conversation to watch the finish of an event as the picture was made.

Tim Ryan Celebrates 25th Anniversary As Pioneer. Track Coach

By Dave Tefft

For 25 years silver-topped Tim Ryan has been teaching Ann Arbor High youngsters the fundamentals of track while instilling into them the idea of always giving their best whether it be in competition or elsewhere in the high school world.

And the Canadian-born Irishman with the twinkling eyes and friendly grin is just as.enthusiastic about starting the second quarter century as Pioneer track mentor as he has been through the first 25 years.

“There are rewards other than those of material nature in this work just as there are in any job you love," Ryan says. “I’ve had many a thrill from my boys over the years but the best of all hasn’t changed much. It’s still that kick I get watching some kid blossom into a star, or, maybe, just a dependable competitor, as the result of hard work, attention to detail, and developing maturity."

Probably the most respected high school track coach in the state as he finishes up this, his silver anniversary year, with the Pioneers, Ryan’s contributions to Ann Arbor High have been heavy in fields other than track. “He adds a lot to our entire program," says Lou Hollway, Ann Arbor High athletic director who came to the local school a few years before Ryan. “He has a wonderful way—stern but sympathetic—with the kids. And, much as he likes to win, the boy always comes first.”

There are instances dotted back through his coaching career here during which Ryan jeopardized victory opportunities to bolster one of his charge’s morale by keeping him in a race.


Highly successful through the years—his teams have won every possible title short of the state championship and this year's edition has some chance of getting that big one—Ryan has come to be known among his coaching colleagues as ‘the old fox.’ Time and again he's stolen a meet with that particular bit of coaching genius which so often enables him to make just the right move at just the right time. 

Interested in all sports, the Pioneer mentor naturally rates track ahead of the rest. “When you achieve some goal in track." he explains, “you know you’ve done something all by yourself. There’s no question of someone else having cleared the way for you or having made the effort possible. On the track or in the field it’s the competitor against the world."

Like all successful coaches, Ryan has his own tricks of teaching.  One is the establishment of individual goals for every member of his squad. He writes them down at season's beginning. Sometimes he will show them to the athlete early in the season, other times he won't.  But he will always show the athlete involved at season’s end the written estimation of his ability made before the season started. 

This coaching technique occasionally brings forth a chuckle-loaded incident like the time Ryan had a pole vaulter whom he thought should make 10 feet, six inches before the season ended. This time Ryan told the athlete of the goal before competition opened in then spring. “And in our first meet that kid made 10 feet, six inches,” Ryan chuckles. “I was across the field when it happened and I saw him coming from the pit jumping four feet in the air at every step. He grabbed me by the arm and yelled, ’Coach, I made it. I did 10-6. What ! do I do now?'

“Well, I convinced him the season wasn’t over for him and we raised his goal." 


Born in Dunmore, Ont., some 70 miles from Ottawa, Ryan was an all-around athlete in his youth, playing goalie in collegiate hockey, catcher in baseball, and running the hurdles and quarter mile in track. He went to St. Francis Xavier College in Canada and finished his collegiate education at nearby Michigan State Normal College in 1925, earning a Huron letter as a half-miler and relay man under Lloyd Olds while he gained needed credits in physical education and teacher training.

Then Ryan came to Ann Arbor High in September of 1926 to begin the coaching and teaching career which still runs smoothly with an occasional stormy interruption when he thinks his school or one of his boys is being taken advantage of. Ryan's teams have won a total of seven Five-A League track titles, four league cross country crowns, two River Rouge Invitational championships, and various other team diadems. And there seem to be many more such honors left for the 'old grey-fox’ of schoolboy track.

There have been many track and field stars developed under Ryan’s tutelage. And all of them he remembers well even though he was a bit hesitant about making out a list. “I'll forget someone, sure, and I wouldn't want to do that,” he said. But, under prodding, he offered these names with the cautioning word that "I’ve probably left someone out."

Anyway, here’s a list of Ryan-taught runners, jumpers, and weight men who would make quite a squad if they could be brought together at their best:

Pete Zahner, Marty Edson, Don Bobwin, Alfie Wagner, Waldo Abbott, Nelson Cody, Weimar Christman. Hoyt Service, Erwin Steeb, Ed and Don Makielski, Bob Morris, Ham Morningstar, Bill Bone, Willis Ward. Roland Gruschow, Bill Haidler, Harsent Tantsi, Ted Judson, Brad Harding, Bob Fowler, Lee Wigg, Bill Wikle, Mark Ford, Roger Maugh, Hank Darling, and Guy Paul.