With a national championship and 11 top-five national finishes for the track and field and cross country programs in 16 years at Auburn, head coach Ralph Spry is not resting on his laurels. The 2006 Division I Women's Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year has moved both the Auburn men's and women's programs into the upper echelon of the SEC and the nation, with no end to the Tigers' successes in sight.
During the 2014 campaign, Spry helped lead the women’s team to a tie for 12th at the NCAA Indoor Championships behind runner-up finishes from Valentina Muzaric (shot put) and Marshay Ryan (triple jump). Eight Tigers were named All-Americans in the outdoor season, giving Spry a total of 318 for his career. The men’s team earned its 12th top-25 finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Spry’s tenure, finishing tied for 24th.
The 2012 season included four SEC individual titles, and a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the men's team. The women's team also secured its spot in the top 25 for the 12th-straight year. Additionally, working directly with Spry, Auburn men's sprinters posted the top mark in the nation in the 4x100-meter relay and Harry Adams recorded the fastest wind-legal 100 and 200 meter times in the nation.
Adams' 9.96 in the 100 meters at the NCAA Championships established a new school record and Auburn's 38.30 second time in the 4x100-meter relay at the Texas Relays broke a 35-year-old program record and was the top collegiate mark in 2012.
Auburn boasted five All-Americans during the 2011 indoor and outdoor seasons. Spry led the Tigers to a fifth-place SEC finish on the men's side and a sixth-place finish for the women. Auburn individuals claimed six event titles during the SEC Championships. Thrower Stephen Saenz earned SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year for both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
The 2010 Tigers posted three top-12 finishes at NCAA meets, including a sixth-place finish by the women at the NCAA indoor meet. 2010 capped a string of 12 straight years that Auburn had at least one individual national champion.
In 2009, Spry guided young and largely inexperienced teams, but still helped the Auburn men finish 12th and the women 25th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Spry led the Auburn men to a second-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor National Championships, marking the sixth time Auburn has finished in the top three in the nation under Spry. His athletes earned 10 All-American honors and two individual national championships while marking the fourth straight year that at least one of his teams earned a top-five national finish.
In 2007, Spry led Auburn's men to a third-place finish at the NCAA outdoor meet, and a fifth-place performance at the NCAA Indoor Championships, while the women also finished fifth at the indoor meet. Auburn produced national champions in six events and earned 15 All-American honors. The season was capped by Kerron Stewart - a two-time Olympic medalist in 2008 - earning the Honda Sports Award as the nation's top female collegiate track and field athlete.
In 2006, he earned his first national championship when the Auburn women's team took home the NCAA outdoor title. The Tigers scored 57 points to easily outdistance USC, which placed second with 38.5 points. Auburn had All-American performances in nine events, including two individual national champions and three second-place finishers, and broke two school records during the four-day event.
In addition to a fourth place men's indoor finish in 2005, Spry came close to a pair of national titles in 2003, as the men finished second at both the indoor and outdoor meets.
His men's team was third at the 2000 NCAA Indoor Championships and fourth at the 1999 outdoor meet.
While on The Plains, Spry has also coached and developed such Auburn greats as Ty Akins, Marc Burns, Coby Miller and Avard Moncur. He has also led 19 NCAA Outdoor Champions, 10 Indoor Champions, 13 Olympic performers and six World Champion performers, including 2001 400m champion Avard Moncur, 2007 high jump champion Donald Thomas and 2009 4x100m relay champion Kerron Stewart.
Spry was hired to be the fourth track and field coach in Auburn history in late 1997. Prior to his appointment at Auburn, Spry had spent the previous two years at the University of South Carolina as an assistant coach.
A native of Aberdeen, Md., Spry came to the Plains with five years of experience. He served as an assistant coach at three different Southeastern Conference schools before accepting the head coaching position at Auburn.
Spry was one of the top graduates in his class at the University of Mississippi where he earned a degree in Physical Education in 1984. He served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater under the tutelage of Joe Walker for one year. On September 13, 2003, Spry was honored by the University of Mississippi athletic department by being inducted into their Hall of Fame.
Spry, who had been active in the R.O.T.C at Mississippi, accepted a commission in the U.S. Army after his graduation.
While he served his country, Spry also competed for the All-Army track and field team. As an officer in the U.S. Army, he was a member, and an assistant coach on the All-Army track team that won the Armed Forces Championship during his time with the team. He won five Interservice long jump championships, and in 1986 was the World Military long jump champion.
He was eventually invited to participate in the Army's World Class Athletic Training Program. As a member of the program, he was allowed to choose with whom he would train.
Spry chose to go to the University of Florida to train with his former coach, Joe Walker. While at Florida, Spry served as a volunteer coach for the Gator track team as he trained for the Olympic Trials in which he competed in 1988.
After attending the Army's Ranger school in 1989, Spry served as Company Commander in the 9th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. It was during this time that Spry realized that he would soon be ending his Army career.
After leaving active duty, Spry was hired as an assistant at the University of Florida in 1992, and within the next two years he coached seven Florida athletes to 10 All-American honors and eight to All-SEC awards. Included in those were three freshmen, most notably Dominick Millner.
Millner finished fourth at the 1995 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the long jump and had the longest collegiate long jump by a freshman indoors that year. He was also the Junior National Champion in the long jump in 1995.
Another athlete at Florida to excel under the leadership of Spry was Dion Bentley. Bentley achieved a sixth-place ranking in the U.S. and a ninth-place ranking worldwide in 1993.
In 1995, Spry moved to the University of South Carolina as an assistant coach and continued to build championship caliber athletes as a Gamecock.
In his first season at USC, Gamecock athletes training under Spry broke 19 school records. Spry's athletes garnered eight more All-Americans honors and Marvin Watts won two SEC titles in the 800m. Watts was the first conference champion in track in South Carolina history.
Spry has had success taking the athletes he coaches to the next level of their ability. He understands that this is quite possibly his most important job as a coach. Spry thinks that his background as an army officer has, and will continue to help him motivate the young people who choose to participate in the Auburn track program.
Another quality that has helped Spry build champions is the fact that he has been a champion himself.
After winning two state championships in the long jump and triple jump in Maryland, Spry attended Anne Arundel Community College. While in junior college, he was four-time NJCAA champion, winning three triple jump crowns and one long jump title. He was an eight-time JUCO All-American and is now a member of the NJCAA Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Spry transferred to the University of Mississippi, where he became the first Ole Miss track and field athlete to receive All-American and national champion status. He was a two-time NCAA All-American, a three-time All-SEC performer, 1983 NCAA Long Jump Champion and the 1983 SEC Long Jump Champion. In 1983, he was ranked fifth in the United States and seventh in the world in the long jump by Track and Field News.
Spry and his wife Sylvia have two children, Tiffany and Ralph Jr.