When Neil Gutekunst was on the track-and-field team at Dallastown High School, he didn’t realize how lucky he had it.
Gutekunst, who is now the Wildcats’ head coach, is a 1991 graduate and had Ray Geesey as his head coach.
Now, almost 40 years after Geesey first took over the Dallastown program, the longtime head coach is an assistant for Gutekunst. To honor him, Gutekunst and Dallastown High School are renaming its track-and-field invitational after him.
“I didn’t realize how good of a coach he was and how special it was,” Gutekunst said. “Once I got older, I talked to other coaches, and they all told me how great Ray was with the type of program he ran. It makes me realize how fortunate I was.”
The Ray Geesey Track and Field Invitational will be 4 p.m. Friday. Geesey, who is now an assistant for the Wildcats, said having his name on the invitational that he started more than 30 years ago is an “honor.”
“It means a lot to me,” Geesey said. “I felt a little uncomfortable about it at first, because I’m not the only person who’s done important things for the program.”
Geesey’s career: Geesey was Dallastown’s head coach from 1980-1994 and in 1998. His teams won 200 dual meets and 12 divisional championships. He started the Dallastown Invitational in 1987 after the track at the high school was installed.
“So many invitationals are run by an outside agency or a booster club. Ray ran this for all the years he did,” Gutekunst said. “He was the guy who created the meet and kept it going. Back when he did it, the Dallastown Invitational was the meet to go to in York County. It was a special experience there.”
As an example of the many people Geesey says have played crucial roles in the history of Dallastown track and field, he remembers his wife using her math skills to map out the seedings for the meet.
“Now they have computer programs that do all the seedings,” Geesey said. “But back when we started the invitational, my wife, who was a math teacher, did all that. It shows there were so many people who deserve recognition.”
Back into coaching: Heading into this season, Gutekunst had a need for a jump coach. He knew asking Geesey was a shot in the dark, considering he’s retired and hasn’t coached in more than 20 years. However, Geesey agreed to coach under his former athlete.
“I was very surprised he said yes,” Gutekunst said. “He’s been retired for quite a while and is enjoying his retirement very much. He put in a lot of hard work as a teacher for many years and earned the right to just relax. … The fact that he would give up retirement time for me is really a special feeling.”
Geesey was hesitant at first. He didn’t know if he would be able to coach today’s teenager. A few months into the season, however, Geesey said it’s not much different than it was 35 years ago.
“I wouldn’t think the kids would be the same as they were in the '80s, but they are the same,” Geesey said. “Kids are the same today, except for the technology. They’re always on their phones.”
Appreciating Geesey: Gutekunst, who is in his third season as Dallastown’s head coach, said it wasn’t until he started coaching himself that he truly learned how great Geesey was as a coach. He previously was an assistant at Dallastown and York Suburban.
“When I started coaching, it made me realize how hard it really is and how great Ray was,” Gutekunst said. “It’s hard in track to create that family atmosphere, because there’s so many different people doing different things at different times. Ray still found a way to make all of it a family. It’s a tough thing, but he was able to do it.”
Gutekunst said he’s enjoyed coaching alongside Geesey, and some athletes often seek out the former head coach’s advice.
“His energy is still as high as it was 20 years ago,” Gutekunst said. “The kids can tell he cares so much about getting them to be the best they can be. It’s fun to watch him work with kids from that angle.”
Invitational details: The Geesey Invitational starts at 4 p.m. Friday. The teams competing are: Central York, Christian School of York, Dallastown, Kennard Dale, Lampeter-Strasburg, New Oxford, Susquehannock, Waynesboro, West York, York High, York Tech and York Suburban.
“We’re hoping to get a lot of alumni out there Friday night,” Gutekunst said.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.