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A trailblazing athlete, teacher and coach from York is retiring.

York High graduate Ronn Jenkins announced earlier this week that he is stepping down from coaching the diving team at West Chester University after 49 years at the helm because of health concerns. Jenkins is also a West Chester graduate.

"I recently underwent heart surgery," Jenkins said in a news release on the West Chester website. "Coupled with the current pandemic and the college's concern for its liability, my recovery compels me to consider what's most important under these circumstances. The current world Covid-19 crisis has given me time for reflection and strong thoughts of my future. 

"In my efforts to champion physical and mental health, I have neglected my own. I have decided, therefore, to make the best of the life I have remaining by retiring from my position as the University's volunteer Head Diving Coach. It is my sincere hope that the diving team continues to enjoy the successes it has had under my tutelage."

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Jenkins, who also taught briefly at York Suburban High School, leaves as the longest-tenured coach at West Chester. While growing up in York, Jenkins was the first person of color to join the local YMCA, where he learned to swim and dive. He graduated from York High in 1961.

At West Chester, in addition to being the diving coach, he also filled a variety of other leadership roles, including associate professor, associate dean of students, interim assistant to the president and director of affirmative action, director of the academic development program and chair of the department of educational services and academic advising.

Among some of his other career athletic highlights are:

►Appointed the coordinator of diving officials at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

►Named the 1995 NCAA Division II Women's Diving Coach of the Year.

►Selected s a member of the West Chester University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania State Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame and the York High Athletic Hall of Fame.

►Won Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Mid-Atlantic Conference diving championships during his college career at West Chester.

►Named West Chester's most outstanding athlete in 1964.

►Captured two Junior Olympic national titles during his diving days in the early 1960s.

West Chester's current swimming and diving head coach, Steve Mazurek, spoke glowingly about Jenkins in the school's news release.

"It's impossible to go anywhere in this area without running into someone who knows Ronn," Mazurek said. "For a while I thought he was the mayor of West Chester who coached diving on the side.       

“… He had to fight for his spot in the sport as an athlete and he had to fight to preserve opportunities for collegiate divers. He spent a career fighting for his passion. My hope is that he'll finally be able to relax in retirement and enjoy connecting with the countless lives he's touched.     

"What an honor it's been to coach alongside a coaching legend. A highlight for me was watching him coach Nadia Mulder to an NCAA championship in 2019. Ronn's retiring at the top of his game — as the best coach in Division II Swimming and Diving. Period."

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

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