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Davenport Central's Alec Capshaw slaps hands with coach Jay Ryan after hitting a home run earlier this season. Ryan has stepped down as Central's coach after 19 seasons.

Jay Ryan has been associated with Davenport Central’s baseball program for 35 years, the last 19 as the varsity head coach.

After 383 victories, nine substate final appearances and four trips to the state tournament, Ryan has decided to turn the lineup card over to someone else.

Central announced late last week Ryan has retired from coaching baseball. The Blue Devils were 25-11 and lost to eventual state runner-up Iowa City West in the substate final this summer.

"I felt really good about this season, a great group of kids and thought it was time to walk away after a real positive experience," Ryan said.

Ryan still will teach in the district. He’ll just have his summers free.

"I guess I'll get the golf clubs out of the basement, and I'll get to travel with my wife a little bit," he said. "It'll be a chance to relax."

After coaching five years of American Legion baseball in Rochester, Minn., Ryan was hired at Central by Bill Freese in 1982. He was an assistant sophomore coach for four seasons, spent a dozen years as the sophomore coach and then was elevated to the varsity job to replace Jack Leabo in 1997.

At Central, Ryan won three Mississippi Athletic Conference titles — 2005, ’07 and ’10. His teams played in the state tournament in 2006, ’07 (state runner-up), ’09 and ’11.

"I'm gonna miss the relationships with the kids, opposing coaches and the umpires," Ryan said. "I've coached a lot of good teams, a lot of good kids.

"We had juniors last year that were just average ball players. They just blossomed as seniors. It is a pleasure to watch kids grow like that."

The Blue Devils will begin a search for Ryan’s replacement. Central has three starters projected back next season in Ian Bedell, Bobby Magnus and Andrew Hegland. Connor Bedell also is back after missing most of the season with injury.

Premier field for Spartan Challenge: Suffice to say, the girls field for Saturday’s 21st Pleasant Valley Spartan Cross Country Challenge is stacked.

Five of the top seven teams in the Iowa Class 4A preseason rankings are scheduled to compete in top-ranked Pleasant Valley, No. 2 Iowa City High, No. 3 Iowa City West, No. 6 Muscatine and No. 7 Bettendorf.

They’ll likely be chasing Naperville North, which has won the meet the past three years and returns four runners from an Illinois Class 3A state runner-up squad.

The 16-team boys field also has a heavy contingent of ranked squads in top-ranked Pleasant Valley, No. 3 Cedar Rapids Prairie, No. 6 Iowa City West, No. 9 Iowa City High, No. 11 Dubuque Senior, No. 14 Johnston and Muscatine, just outside the top 15.

Edina (Minn.) has won four consecutive Spartan Challenge titles at Crow Creek Park.

The varsity girls race begins at 8:30 a.m. with the boys to follow at 9 a.m.

Boys golf rankings: The Iowa Golf Coaches Association released its first Class 4A rankings Sunday. Muscatine is the top Mississippi Athletic Conference school at No. 5, followed by Davenport Assumption (12th) and Pleasant Valley (20th).

Dowling Catholic, Linn-Mar and Marshalltown comprise the top three.

Individually, Muscatine junior Bryce Howard is eighth with a 37.25 stroke average for nine holes. Assumption’s Matt Cain is 20th at 37.78 and Clinton’s Jake Luett is 23rd at 38.16.

With the exception of Muscatine, the other nine MAC members will play in the Assumption Invitational on Wednesday at Emeis Golf Course.

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Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.