The remarkable journey of Woodinville coach Andrew Storey

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

When he’s not smiling, 29-year-old track coach Andrew Storey looks stern and angry. But ask him about his current life in Woodinville as pole vault coach for the Falcons, and his face breaks into a glorious grin. “I’m having too much fun,” he says. “It’s like it was meant to be.”

Fate certainly plays a part in everybody’s life. But if self-determination and freedom are at the heart of what the American Experiment is all about, then Storey embodies that yearning.   

mackieFreshman sensation Mackie Barton gets guidance from coach Andrew Storey last season. (Courtesy photo)His narrative traces back to 1991, amid the dirty and impoverished streets of Bangladesh. Storey was six years old when his parents divorced, and his mother moved to India to remarry. He continued living with his father and little brother Regan.

But when their father died within the next year, the boys were shipped to India to live again with their mother. Storey’s world would roil with tumult for the next three years, until a twist of fate brought him to Woodinville.

“In India if you are born to a woman that is already formally divorced and remarried, you don’t mean much to the new husband,” Storey explained. “Because you’re not of his blood and you’re not his kids. That was made clear to us. We did all the chores but didn’t receive anything. We had to mind our Ps and Qs. It was very hard.”

So Storey began plotting, and two months later he and his brother tried to run away back to Bangladesh. They were quickly rounded up and sent back.

“We did it again at night, and got onto a bus,” Storey said. “And I have to say that the reason I’m a generous and kind person today is because on that night, a total stranger helped us to get home. He bought us two bus tickets to my grandma’s house in Bangladesh.”

The boys stayed there for six months. But the strain of caring for them proved too much for their grandmother. There were other family members staying there, and food was often scarce.

“She put us into an orphanage,” Storey said. “We were there for a couple months. I didn’t like it. I’m a very carefree person. I don’t like to be locked down, I like to be free and to do what I want. So we ran away from the orphanage. It was almost like a prison break. I would watch the routines of the ladies that ran the place. We saw our chance and snuck out again at night.”

After a few more returns to their grandmother’s house and escapes from the orphanage, plus a few days living on the streets, 8-year-old Storey surrendered to staying at the orphanage.

He and Regan felt rejected and unwanted, but soon he began making friends. And each day he gravitated to the running track that occupied the orphanage grounds. He began running sprints, then competed in his first ever 100-meter race.
“I either won or came in second, I can’t remember,” he said. “That was when I fell in love with track.”

One day he got called into the main office of the orphanage. You’re being adopted and going to live in America, the ladies told him. But when Storey heard he was the only one being adopted, he said no. He would stay in India.
“Because I wasn’t going to go without my brother,” he said. “It was like, hey this is my brother, he’s going to be with me for the rest of my life. We’ve been through a lot of stuff.”
When word of that reached Corinne Storey of Woodinville, she took the news in stride.  
“She was okay with it,” Storey said. “I think it was meant to be. A woman wanted one son and she got two.”
Andrew and Regan boarded the first plane of their lives and took to the skies, bound for America. Storey felt excitement, adrenaline and finally nausea. When they landed at Sea-Tac, the boys anxiously exited the plane and walked into the terminal, where they saw their new mom, older brother, cousin, aunt and uncle.
Over the next few years, Storey made friends and adjusted well to life in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, though he declines to talk about it publicly. “My time in Woodinville was a learning curve,” he explained.  
When Storey entered Woodinville High School, he had to take Special Ed classes. “I told them I don’t need these, and they said ‘yes you do,’” he said. “They thought I couldn’t do it and didn’t think I was good enough. I fought to get out of those classes.”
Storey instantly gravitated toward the WHS track program. He was a sprinter in his sophomore year but didn’t much care for his coach.  
“But I started pole vault my junior year,” he said. “That’s where I fell in love with it. The thrill of running down and planting a pole in the box and trying to jump over. It was fun.”
Heading into his senior year, his goal was to go to KingCo at the end of the year. He was also elected captain of the team.
“That meant a lot to me and I had to step it up,” he said. “When my coach couldn’t be there, I always led my pole vaulters with weight training, drills and various things that had helped me. I was very motivated, not just for myself but the other athletes. I was always training. I won the Most Inspirational Award. I was always first one there, last one to leave. When I was done with my events, even if it was raining, I would be soaked, but I would be cheering on my teammates until the last meet and the last race.”
As well as making it to KingCo, it was also during that senior season that fate intervened in Storey’s life.
“One day we were having a meet at one of the Seattle schools,” he said. “Some kid was vaulting. He was trying but he didn’t know what he was doing. I went over and helped him. I taught him how to hold the pole and what to do. And he started doing well. He started jumping. After that, I got that hook. That’s what I wanted to do. It was one of those revelations.”
After graduating from Woodinville, Storey went to Shoreline Community College for two years, then onto the University of Washington, where he eventually graduated.
But it was in 2007, while working for the Northshore School District in field maintenance, that he was at Woodinville one afternoon and ran into coach Jed Spires. “I told him I wanted to be a coach when I graduated from college,” he said. “He said he would give me a call. He knew me from my junior and senior years. He knew of my work ethic and how I liked to have fun.
“He called me in December with a job offer. I was hesitant because I was still in school, but he took me to some clinics. He was very motivating. Once a coach sees potential in you it means the world. It changes everything. Craig Bekins was a track coach, and he was my mentor. He guided me as the season approached.”
On the first day of practice, Storey stood before his first group of Woodinville athletes.
“I have a very intimidating face when I’m not smiling, and the kids thought I was going to be a mean coach,” he said. “But once they got to know me, they saw I was very laid back and not a jerk. I was very blunt with the kids. I said, ‘This is my first year. I will be learning while you’re learning. If you have any feedback or constructive criticism, come talk to me.’ And that first year was amazing. Twice a week we would go get pizza or something. We’d hang out after practice. We had fun.”

In his third season at Woodinville in 2010, Storey coached his first state champion in pole vaulter, Curtis Flolid. Other success stories followed.  

“I want to stay in coaching for the rest of my life,” he said. “But I also am pursuing my education and looking into graduate schools. I want to do something more. I’m thinking about starting a non-profit pole vault clinic to help kids who don’t have coaches or can’t afford coaches.”

Through the trials that life has put him through, he carries this belief:

“I always feel like authority figures are someone to fear,” he added. “They shouldn’t be that way, but they come off as scary people. When I coach and work with my kids, I never want them to have that fear. I tell them just be yourself. Be you. Because that’s who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.”

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