After more than 30 years at one place, it was time for a change for Andy Youngworth.
He wore many hats since coming to Carthage High School in 1990 and his last act as coach for the district came at the Class 5 MSHSAA Track and Field Championship on Thursday, May 27 in Jefferson City.
"It was pretty surreal," he said of his last meet, which featured a 2 ½ rain delay but ended with two of the Tigers on the medal stand. "I got back pretty late but knew on the bus ride home it was my last time as the track and cross country head coach. It was a good experience to add two more state medalists to the record book."
Youngworth resigned earlier this year and the kids knew about it before the season was over. He didn't want a 'Farewell Andy Tour' but rather wanted to focus on the Tigers and Lady Tigers program succeeding in meets this spring.
The team was going to go to the Pitt State Relays in Pittsburg, Kan., earlier this season but the meet was rained out. That was the day he told the team he wasn't going to be back. He rather they find out from him instead of through the grapevine or social media.
The end of the season didn't really hit him until he was in the locker room and the seniors were cleaning out their lockers.
"I think Malcolm (Robertson) saved every meet itinerary sheet I gave him for four years," Youngworth said. "And Ty Lewis ... I don't know if Ty could get another water bottle in that locker."
He added it was tough for the seniors to leave - and surely the same is true for Youngworth, who recently started a new job at McAuley Regional Catholic in Joplin. He will teach and coach at the private school alongside longtime friend Darbi Stancell, who helped persuade him to take the job as track and field and cross country coach.
"He was such a great coach," said Miguel Solano, who medaled in the 800-meter run. "I'm so glad he was my coach. My goal was to get to state and I'm glad he got to see me go to state. I hope he is happy and I wish him well... I will miss him."
McAuley will be another stop in a coaching career that started in 1983 for the Kansas City area native. He started teaching at an Indian school on a reservation in South Dakota, before moving to Parsons, Kansas to teach at the Catholic school. Then he moved to Missouri, coaching at Wentworth Military Academy and then Springfield Catholic.
That is where he met then-Carthage coach Ed Streich, who he later worked for as an assistant coach starting in 1990. Youngworthwas initially hired as a track and field and football assistant coach.
This year marked his 31st year coaching at CHS, which included 27 years as the head track and field coach for the girls and 26 years for the boys. He lasted longer than the two previous coaches before him: Streich spent 14 years at the helm, while Patty Vavra coached for 15 years before moving onto Missouri Southern.
"Just another chapter closed for me ... a long chapter," Youngworth said. "It (McAuley) will be a different chapter. It won't be much of an adjustment and see what we can replicate here. It may be different. What worked at Carthage maybe won't work here or what works at McAuley won't work at Carthage. Darbi and I will work together and the energy she brings will help.
"I'll be around. It is not like I won't see these (Carthage) kids. I live in Carthage."
Youngworth will be replaced by three coaches for his two spots: Logan Wilson (boys) and Nicole Sipes (girls) will oversee the track and field programs, while Brian Crigger will be the new cross country coach.
Youngworth is quick to mention the culture of success he built at Carthage wasn't because of him, but rather the athletes that made up the teams.
None were better than perhaps the 2018 edition of the boys team, which won the state championship.
That also was the year that Youngworthretired as a teacher from Carthage, but was rehired and worked the next three years as the dual coach.
Prior to his retirement, he had stints as the swimming coach and later moved into the role of athletic director in 2004.
He is viewed as a mentor or father-figure to many athletes he's coached over the years. He still keeps track of many and is quick to point out their success post-high school.
Youngworth, though not present at the Class 4 Track and Field Championships on May 29, was surely beaming with pride.
While there is something to be said for the Carthage-Webb City rivalry, it was hard for him to not cheer for the Cardinals a bit that Saturday when they won the state championship.
A turncoat? No, just a proud coach of a former athlete.
The Cardinals are guided by Dustin Miller, who is a 2002 CHS graduate.
"I just got off the phone with him before getting on the podium," he said. "I wrote him a letter and told him I modeled my life after him; not meaning to but I became a teacher-coach and got my athletic administration master's (degree). He has just been a mentor to me. He was the one that pulled me out of football; I'd been an average football player but he put me in cross country and I fell in love with it."
What initially became a sport to join to get in shape for basketball turned into a sport that led to a scholarship at Missouri Southern and notable honors for the years running for the Lions. When Miller became the head cross country and track and field coach at Webb City, he knew he could turn to Youngworth for advice, if needed.
"We have different philosophies but at the end of the day, we love kids," Miller said. "I'm thankful to have a role model like that I'm chasing. He won one state title and we won one state title. He won four cross country trophies, we have won one. It is always in the back of my head that he is the standard of excellence. I'm thankful (he was my coach). So many kids don't get a coach that cares about them or have a standard of excellence. To be a part of that, I am forever grateful."