The identities of those holding up Smith-Cotton athletics are written, hanged and plastered across campus: Jaynes, Heckart, Dey and more.
But the names of those currently supporting the Tigers are best found on the staff directory and game day programs. Names like Kindle, Zerilli, McFail, Walters and even more make a day-to-day impact at Smith-Cotton either as adults on the coaching staff, as student-athletes on the roster or both.
Smith-Cotton athletic director Rob Davis said the Tigers have the strongest overall coaching staff since beginning his tenure. It’s no coincidence, he said, that most of the names are local.
“We always try to hire the best coaches possible,” Davis said. “But what we have discovered over the last 14 years, is, you’ve got to have some sort of connection to Sedalia … If Mike Kryzewski wants to come coach basketball for us, we’ll hire him. But, if it comes down to people with equal ability and one of them is from Sedalia, we’ll probably lean towards them.”
Jud Kindle, now head baseball coach at State Fair Community College, graduated Smith-Cotton in 2000 and coached the Tigers from 2013-2016. Charlie McFail took over head wrestling duties in 2015 and led the team during its first two conference titles in over a decade. Both men have nieces, nephews and children in the district.
Rush Walters, head boy’s tennis coach, graduated Smith-Cotton in 2009. He said as recently as spring 2016, when the team finished runner-up in conference after a last-place finish a year before, that Tigers tennis is much more competitive now, than when he played.
While Walters is in his first year, the longest-tenured coaches at Smith-Cotton – Brad Hagedorn and Jerry Tankersley – have held down the school’s most consistently successful programs, track and field and swim and dive, respectively.
Davis said he valued the longtime coaches at S-C.
“It’s consistency and it’s continuity within the coaching staff,” Davis said. “The coaches that have been here the longest, their programs are the strongest.”
A different flavor of community involvement helped make new facilities across the S-C campus a possibility.
Donors and boosters made Tiger Stadium at Jennie Jaynes Complex a reality. Turf, installed before the 2015-16 season, was a Sedalia parks department project. An auxiliary gym, as an addition to Smith-Cotton High School, is closer to opening by the day.
Davis said while the facility improvements have come seemingly in one fell swoop, the plans took years to execute.
People knew, at least 20 years ago, that that red-dog track was outdated,” Davis said. “The field we actually played on was fine, but the infrastructure was falling apart. People knew we needed to upgrade.”
And while physically collecting donations and taking bids was the most challenging part, Davis said, the willingness was there because of the message Smith-Cotton athletics sends.
“If you prove that the program is good for the kids, people will come, with the money and resources to make it successful,” Davis said.
As Smith-Cotton football put the finishing touches on a 31-0 victory over Marshall in week two of 2016, former S-C head baseball coach Jeff Mays, along with Hagedorn and former S-C girl’s basketball coach Zach Vandevender poured out of the press box after running the scoreboard.
After its student-athletes on the field, the support and effort placed into Smith-Cotton is arguably best reflected in its staff, student and community blending its roles for the Tigers.