Longtime Ellis coach Jack Wolf retiring after one last trip to Cessna
Jack Wolf has helped 166 athletes reach state since he started coaching the Ellis high school track and field team in 1997.
The Railroaders will send 11 athletes to Cessna Stadium in Wichita on Saturday, and Wolf couldn't ask for a better way to close out his coaching tenure.
Wolf is retiring after more than 30 years of coaching and 28 years of teaching in Ellis.
"It kind of puts the icing on the cake for all the years that I've coached track," Wolf said. "It has really been a good year. I've got good kids that are coachable. It's just a fun year to go out on a good note."
There's been no shortages of highlights in Wolf's coaching career.
The Railers have had 10 individual state champions under Wolf. The Ellis girls won the state team title in 2009 and took third place in 2006 and 2008. The Railers boys were runner-up in 2007.
"It's been a great run," Wolf said. "You've got to have the athletes. You can be the best coach in the world, and its tough to get a lot out of it if there's nothing there. But you can take mediocre athletes and make them better."
His daughter, Haley Wolf, now an assistant track and field coach at Hays High, was a state champion in the 1,600 run and runner-up in the 3,200 run for the Railers and still holds school records.
"That was pretty special there," Jack Wolf said of coaching Haley.
An Ellis native, Wolf set the school's pole vault record in 1974. He saw the record eclipsed by Riley Hunsicker about 10 years ago.
Between the high school and middle school levels, Wolf has coached every sport at Ellis except softball and baseball. He's coached junior high girls and boys basketball since 1993.
He recalled a junior high basketball team that went undefeated their seventh and eight grade years, and he recently make video copies of the games, so the players could show the games to their children.
Another fond memory came just this past fall when the Ellis girls and boys cross country each qualified for state.
"It's been fun. I'll miss it," Wolf said of coaching.
The Ellis girls finished second at regionals behind Plainville, qualifying nine for state.
Madelyn Russell will compete in 3200 and the 1600 run. Emily Eck will run the 400, Grace Eck the 800 and Abigail North the 200.
Ellis' girls 3200 relay team is No. 1 on the performance list with a 10:25.32. The Railers will also compete in the 1600 and 400 relays.
"I hope we can score some points," Wolf said. "We might sneak in and get a plaque, I don't know."
Ellis high jumper Jacy Fischer enters with a personal record of 6-4. Rex Johnson will compete in the javelin.
From an atmosphere standpoint, Wolf said it's slightly disappointing that all six classifications won't be competing at the same time in this year's meet. Class 2A and 1A will compete on Saturday.
"You see a lot of great athletes from all the classes, not just 2A and 1A," Wolf said. "It's just a total different environment when all six classes are there, all the fans that are there.
"There won't be as many fans there because there's just two classes, and that might to our advantage with our young kids. They're not going to look up and see the stands completely full."
More than anything, Wolf is grateful his athletes get the chance to compete.
"When we started school, I honestly didn't think we'd go a full year without missing school due to the pandemic," Wolf said. "We got through all of school and got through all of sports and got to do track at Cessna — not with all six classes (at the same time), but at least we get to go there. The kids that are going this year, some of them are seniors, and they'll always remember what this is all about."
"I imagine there's going to be some nerves with these sophomores, but I think they'll be OK. They've stayed focused all week in practice and I think they're really excited about getting down there and how some of the events are sitting."
Wolf, who taught science at Ellis, said he doesn't have big retirement plans, other than to stay active.
"People ask me what I'm going to do," Wolf said. "I like to hunt, I like to fish. I've got some things around the house I'd like to do.
"I'm not a person that sits still. I get bored easy. I've got to be doing something. It's just my nature."