Pat Cunningham, the track and field coach at Colony High School, saw a tell-all sign at the Region III track meet this year at Skyview High School that the career of John Andrews, Skyview's activities and athletics director, was about to come to an end.
"This meet has been perfect," Cunningham said after the meet concluded on May 19. "There haven't been any protests or problems. It's been the most organized meet I've seen in over 20 years.
"That means Andrews must be about to retire. Usually, by the time somebody has it down to an exact science, that means it's time for them to retire."
Andrews, 56, worked his last day at Skyview on May 24. He will be moving on to be director of special events for the Alaska School Activities Association.
Many are expecting the face of athletics on the peninsula to change a little now that Andrews is gone. While at Skyview, he gained a reputation as a tireless worker who did not shy away from putting on big events.
"He's been a workhorse," said Craig Jung, who retired from the athletic director's position at Kenai Central a few years ago. "He's never shied away from a task or a challenge.
"He's taken them all on."
Among the regular-season events that have grown during Andrews' tenure at Skyview are the Skyview Invitationals in both track and cross country.
The Skyview Invitational cross country meet had a varsity field of about 230 runners this year, while the Skyview Invitational track meet forced Andrews to make almost 1,000 event entries. He came to school as early as 4 a.m. and left as late as 9 p.m. to get the entries done.
All told, Andrews said some sort of event had him at Skyview on 32 of the 36 weekends this school year.
"Peninsula athletics as a whole would not be where they're at today without John Andrews," said Allan Miller, the assistant principal at Skyview. "He is definitely one of those people where you'll be able to tell that he's gone."
Andrews wrote the bid that brought the state cross country championship to Skyview the past three years, and also wrote the bid that resulted in ASAA's first state soccer tournament last year. Skyview also hosted that tournament.
"It's a load," said Andrews, who hosted three region tournaments, two borough tournaments and one state tournament this year. "To me, it's kind of a challenge to see if I can do better than the year before."
Rob Sparks, a track coach and assistant football coach at Skyview, said Andrews' work has been a big boon to the community, not just the school district.
"When he has those big invitationals, that's a lot of people coming into town and spending money on things like hotel rooms and hamburgers," Sparks said. "This is just a guess, but I'd bet the events he organizes brings $10,000 to $20,000 into the community each year."
Andrews' career hasn't always revolved around activities and athletics, although he said athletics have always been so important to him that he still has his varsity letters from high school.
He started teaching in Brazil through the Peace Corps. He then made stops in Iowa and Oregon before landing in Alaska in 1982.
Andrews had actually lived in Alaska for 2 1/2 years when he was younger and his father was stationed at Adak during World War II. He always wanted to return to the state, and did so during a vacation during the summer of 1981.
"I was here about six weeks and traveled as much as I could," Andrews said. "What excited me was I was only able to see about one-tenth of the state. I found that amazing.
"I applied to five different school districts in Alaska, and Kenai was the first one that called me back."
Andrews, who was at Kenai Junior High and Nikiski Middle-Senior High School before Skyview, said he was fortunate to end up in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
"Kenai is a prime spot recreation-wise," Andrews said. "And the 1980s was a great time to be a part of the school district. We won a number of national awards in the '80s and it was great to be a part of that."
Andrews moved to Skyview as an athletic director when it opened in 1990, and in his third year took up the dual role of activities and athletic director. He was the only one on the peninsula to handle both tasks simultaneously.
He also has been on the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association Board for 11 years and was the secretary and treasurer for Region III for eight years.
As activities director, Andrews has played a guiding role with the student council and that council's accomplishments have given him great pride.
"The student councils have been very active in the decision-making that goes on at schools," Andrews said. "They've been very active in organizing things such as homecoming.
"And they've also done things for the community like the canned food drive."
The other thing Andrews said he is most proud of is keeping 70 percent of the students involved in at least one activity. He said 70 percent is about twice as high as the national average.
"There are a lot of studies showing that kids that are involved in activities are much more likely to succeed later in life," Andrews said. "Activities teach lessons that aren't available in the classrooms."
Dan Creel, a district media specialist who is now in Dilllingham, will step into Andrews' role next year. Although filling the shoes of somebody many have dubbed irreplaceable may sound like a daunting task, Andrews said he will help Creel when he can.
"One thing people have to do is give this new guy a chance," said Al Howard, the athletic director at Soldotna. "People can't just expect him to come in and be John Andrews.
"It's going to take a couple of years for him to learn the job."
John Pothast, Skyview's principal, said Creel has another thing going for him.
"He's good," Pothast said. "He's got a lot of talent. I think he's going to step up and impress people."
Meanwhile, Andrews has no plans to settle down or leave Alaska. He said his new job at ASAA is a great fit for him.
"It should be a great move for him," Pothast said. "Special events -- that's what John's all about."
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