Coach Tony Jones has earned a special place in the hearts of York High's track and field athletes.
Jones, through the years, has been more than a coach. He's also been a father figure to some of the team members.
A city kid himself once, Jones sprinted for the Bearcats and then went on to compete in track and field at Bloomsburg University. While at Bloomsburg, Jones and his teammates took part in the prestigious Penn Relays.
Later on, Jones and another York High track-and-field coach, Stu Krise, would drive York's athletes to Philadelphia so they too could compete in the Penn Relays.
Jones, however, hasn't been able to be down on the infield with his athletes this spring. He's battling cancer, and Krise has taken over the team. Jones has been able to make it to the some of the meets, but when he can't be there at meets or practices, he's still never far from the minds of the athletes.
"This whole season, we're running for him and for Mr. Krise because if he didn't step up (and take the head coaching job), we wouldn't be here," said Cheyanne Brown, a junior sprinter for the Bearcats. "It's been stressful and emotional this season. Working without him (Jones) is hard."
Krise said that Jones prepared the sprinters well.
"Our kids have great handoffs (in the relays), and that's because of Tony," he said. "I've never seen anyone do handoffs like our girls and boys, and that's because of him."
Krise and Jones first became acquainted through basketball, but it was their passion for track and field and coaching that sealed their friendship.
"I used to play at Penn Park in the outdoor league (in the 1980s) and I also played at College Avenue Gym," Krise said. "Tony and I kind of knew each other in passing because of playing at those places. When I was hired as head (track and field) coach (in 2003), and Tony came on as an assistant, it was like we were old friends."
The roles were reversed when Jones became head coach, and Krise agreed to be his assistant.
"We have so much in common," Krise said. "He loves these kids, and so do I."
League meet: Thirteen York High athletes are entered in the York-Adams League Championship Meet on Friday at Dallastown.
The Bearcats' Anderson Novalin will enter with the best throw in the shot put (53 feet, 2 inches), and the York girls' 400 relay team is seeded first with a time of 49.45 seconds.
Brown, Jasmine Berry, Kelleann Graham and Donella Nelson made up the relay team that recorded the sub-50 time. Nelson won't be available on Friday because of a family obligation. Dameisha Spates will run with Berry, Graham and Brown.
Brown, along with her athletic ability, displayed an artistic side, by creating a design for shirts which are being sold to aid Jones in his battle with cancer.
"I was looking for an idea in which I could give something back (to Jones)," she said. "It felt good to do it for him."
---Eight athletes return this year after winning individual gold medals at the 2012 York-Adams Championship Meet.
Aiming to repeat on the boys' side are: Jay Stone of Central York (110 hurdles), Logan Bowman of South Western (400), Caleb Gatchell of Red Lion (800), Devin Wilt of Fairfield (1,600), Ryan Hertzog of South Western (3,200) and Dustin Crouse of Littlestown (javelin). Stone also captured the 300 hurdles last year, but he's not entered in that event this year. The Panthers' junior star will instead compete in the 400, and he'll check in with the fastest time (:50.44).
On the girls' side, Kara Funk of Dover and Amanda Myers of Red Lion are back after winning the pole vault and javelin, respectively, in the 2012 meet. Red Lion sprint sensation Angelica Gonzalez swept the 100 and 200 dashes a year ago, but she won't be competing in this year's meet because of a hamstring injury. The sophomore is aiming to return for the District 3 Meet on May 17-18.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.