While the tenure of Andy Dakopolos as head coach of the Glendale High track and field program was somewhat brief, it also proved relatively successful.
Dakopolos confirmed Thursday afternoon that he stepped down after two years to further his education at Columbia University.
“It’s tough to say goodbye because I really had a great time here,” Dakopolos said. “The kids were starting to come out, we were building up our numbers and I loved working with them. I enjoyed my time here at Glendale.”
Dakopolos, a former defensive back at Occidental College, took over for 18-year coach Bob Bailey, who continued to serve as the distance coach.
Under Dakopolos, Glendale produced four Pacific League individual champions over the last two seasons, with perhaps the coach’s biggest accomplishment taking place in 2013.
That year, senior Michael Davis, now at Brigham Young University, broke the school’s 200-meter sprint record of 21.45 seconds, set by Craig Harzmann in 1992, and became Glendale High’s first qualifier to the CIF State Meet since Richard Erbes did so in the 3,200-meter run in 1986.
“I was surprised and glad and sad that he’s leaving,” Glendale athletic director Pat Lancaster said. “It’s a big loss because he did so much on campus. I wish we could have cloned him and put him in other places because he just brought energy and passion. I could only hope the next coach is at least a little like that.”
Dakopolos was also a special education instructor on campus as well as a freshman football coach.
Lancaster said the track coaching job was open, but was not certain if a teaching position would also be available.
Perhaps more important than the league titles was the interest Dakopolos helped reignite in track and field.
A squad of 100 kids before the 2013 season nearly doubled to 190 at the beginning of the 2014 campaign.
“People might not understand what I mean when I say this, but Andrew was the Pied Piper of track,” Lancaster said. “The interest in track just skyrocketed after he took over. We had 200 athletes at the league meets. We used to only need two buses and we bumped that number up to four.
“Those numbers are a credit to him and his staff.”
Bailey was also caught off-guard by the high turnout.
“I was pretty impressed in the fall when I saw the number of kids,” said Bailey, a candidate for the position. “That’s the most athletes out for fall conditioning that I can ever remember.”
One such newcomer to the program was junior Matthew Aldana, who had never participated in track and field at any level prior to this just-completed season.
Aldana was a surprise winner at the Pacific League finals at Arcadia High on May 9 when he captured the 100-meter championship in an area best mark of 11.26.
“This feels great,” Aldana said after the victory. “I’ve only been in track for like three months and I think I found my passion.”
Dakopolos said it was athletes like Aldana who made his coaching stint worthwhile.
“He’s someone who wasn’t interested in track and he ends up having the best mark in the area,” Dakopolos said. “I’m proud to have brought kids to a sport they may have never even considered.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.