TUSCOLA — Ryan Hornaday has coached Tuscola’s boys track team for 10 years and 2019 will be his 20th season coaching overall.
Even with all that experience, a team can still surprise him.
“I think we exceed just about everybody’s expectations and probably as much as I hate to admit it, my own as well,” Hornaday said of this year's Warriors. “We had an incredibly successful year last year and graduated a big group of seniors that scored just a boat-load of points for us, so the group coming back was a little bit under the radar and I think they just really exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
Tuscola's Hunter Woodard earned two state medals, including a state title in the shot put, and the Warriors' 4x800 relay team also took home a medal, earning Hornaday the Herald & Review Area Boys Track Coach of the Year.
Woodard captured the state title in the shot put with a throw of 60 feet, 4 1/2 inches, more than four feet beyond the second place distance.
Woodard was undefeated in the shot put all season but Hornaday said assistant coach Stan Wienke deserves all the credit.
“I get zero credit for any success Hunter Woodard has," Hornaday said. "Obviously he has an amazing amount of God-given ability, he is an incredible worker and, more than all of that, Coach Wienke does an amazing job year after year with our throwers."
Wienke has had tremendous success developing Tuscola talent — he's coached several Tuscola state medalist throwers.
“I can’t say enough good things about the job that coach Wienke does with our throwers, both boys and girls both,” Hornaday said.
Woodard was expected to have a big year at state. The fourth-place finish in the 4x800 wasn't as expected — a point of pride for Hornaday. The Warriors, led by seniors John Hill, Bradley Kramer and Michael Holmes, and junior Noah Woods, went into finals seeded eighth.
“We jumped up to fourth and there was a decent amount of the race that we led it," Hornaday said. "My assistant coach and I were going crazy thinking: Holy cow, a month ago we weren’t sure what this group had in them and then it almost looked like they could be a state champion.
“That was a really cool group to run with. I love all of my kids but that was a shining moment for us to put that 4x800 in there and have them run so well.”
Hornaday said he sees Woods playing a key role in next year’s team.
“Noah had the best split of the day and I think he will have an incredibly fantastic year next year for us in individual events, or if we can figure out ways to piece some other guys with him for our relays,” Hornaday said. “He can just about do anything from the 100 to the 800 so he is a multi-talented kid.”
Hornaday also has an impressive group of sophomores who may excel as juniors.
“My sophomore class reminds me a lot of last year’s senior class," he said. "It is a pretty dynamic group so seeing how much they can progress between their sophomore and their junior year and mixing them in with those kids that are returning from this year’s state experience ... I think we should have another pretty good group.”