By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – Different character traits make up what people remember about someone. Charisma and an infectious laugh are certainly among the traits that will follow the legacy that is attached to Andy Kryder, who left us far too soon.
Kryder passed away Thursday night after a battle with cancer mixed in with a bout of pneumonia. On the surface, he was married to Colleen, and the two had three children – Nathan, Cammy and Zach. A fierce family man, Andy and Colleen spent a good portion of their adult lives doing what most parents do, shepherding around their children to sports and school events. It wasn’t odd to see Andy wandering around a 5K course or at a ballpark while his kids worked through their respective athletic ventures.
Andy had been a longtime swim coach in the club circuits, where his roots in the Wawasee area system helped continue what was an already successful high school program. He was certainly networked well, as his jump into the high school swim world last winter saw most of the coaches already knew and remarked on his coaching ability.
Warsaw swim coach Tony DeBrota noted early in the season that Wawasee’s girls team was going to be tough to beat, and then found out when Kryder’s team smashed the Tigers to open the Northern Lakes Conference season. Kryder took a team full of freshmen and sophomores to a third-place finish at the NLC meet in January and then guided several of his swimmers to the IHSAA State Finals, a place where he himself is historically known.
It was his laugh, though, that stood out as much as anything on the deck.
“She’s quite a competitor, and man, she hates to lose,” started Kryder after the NLC Girls Swim Championships, referring to Alexis Mishler’s championship in the backstroke. Kryder then started into about a 10-second laughter fit, which audibly began like a villain on the original Scooby Doo and ended like Boss Hogg from Dukes of Hazzard just got the cash. You couldn’t help but laugh (with) it. He would do that three times in the matter of a 3:15 interview.
Kryder was a regular guy’s guy. He loved to have fun, whether it be with his family or out and about with his friends. His family was active at Wawasee Community Bible Church. He loved to coach, as evident by the hundreds of swimmers and cross country runners who competed under him. He loved to have fun, and often deflected accolades to someone else. He was the first person to congratulate Wawasee boys coach Jason Scott when it was announced Scott was one of three Coaches of the Year in the NLC. His humility showed during the winter swim season when his team donned the #kryderstrong shirts and caps after it was made public of his cancer diagnosis.
He didn’t want the attention, he rather just be out there having fun.
One of the last quotes IFN got from Kryder was during the Elkhart Girls Swim Sectional, where his team was trying to earn trips to Indianapolis and the IHSAA State Finals. Knowing championships were long shots with Northridge, Concord and Elkhart Central all in the mix, Kryder stayed the party line, and kind of represented what he had said all season. Perhaps before that.
“We are here to compete and have fun, you know?” he said straight-faced, then grinning. “You aren’t going to beat (Northridge state champion) Elsa Fretz in this pool with these lights on. So you go out and try to be like her.” He broke into that signature laugh again. “Just go have fun. Go swim your race. No one is going to remember you if you don’t try.”
It was fitting for one of the most decorated swimmers in Wawasee school history to utter those words. Kryder was a two-time state champion for the Warriors in 1994. He won the 100 freestyle title and also helped the 200 medley relay to a championship as part of a Wawasee team that finished second in the team standings, the highest a team at Wawasee has earned in an IHSAA championship swim tournament.
Kryder was also voted the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner that season, and was an All-American among a throng of local and regional regalia.
Part of a statement released by the Wawasee athletic department Friday via Twitter piggybacked his return to home.
“Wawasee was lucky enough to have Andy return to his roots as a high school and middle school teacher and as a well respected coach for the girls’ swim team. His ability to connect with his swimmers and their families was a remarkable gift. His knowledge of the sport, work ethic, caring nature, and infectious laugh, were unmatched. Coach Kryder will undoubtedly be missed by many in our community. We are grateful for the impact he had on our athletes and we grieve with his family for his untimely passing.”
It was a note early in the week from Jamie Beer, president of the Wawasee Summer League, that may have encapsulated everything as well as anyone could. After noting Zach had pitched a no-hitter to open the little league season, Beer said Andy was on hand to see it. He then noted of the Kryders in general:
“They’ve always given so much of themselves to the community in so many ways with sports and other avenues. I was happy to learn last night people are stepping in to help them so much now with meals and the kids. Just such an awful thing to see happen to anyone.”
The former Wawasee teacher, coach and mentor will always have a place on the walls of his alma mater as a champion. For the thousands of people who knew Andy, that will hold that in their hearts, as well.