KROL_WINE

Stonewall Jackson coach Dick Krol chats with Zach Wine during the Region 1B track and field meet in Quicksburg on Monday afternoon.

QUICKSBURG – There was a familiar sight at the Region 1B Track and field Championships on Monday. One that’s been missing most of the season – Stonewall Jackson track coach Dick Krol.

The legendary coach has been out most of the year due to illness. He returned for the Stonewall Jackson Invitational on May 3, but that is the only other meet he was able to attend.

“He is our heart and soul of our track program, and without him, we have been very lost,” Stonewall Jackson coach Debbie Ritchie said. “We haven’t been the same. He wants to be here, but he physically could not be here. (Monday) was really the only day that he felt well enough to be out and about, and that just makes everybody feel so much better to see him here. The universe is back in order when he is here.”

Ritchie and Krol, who declined to comment for the story, are co-head coaches and have coached the track team together for 32 years. She said it’s been a difficult season for both of them.

“We can’t do the things that we did in the past,” Ritchie said. “Obviously, we have a routine that we’ve had for all these years. It’s been very difficult. So I hope that that never happens again.”

Ritchie said that Krol expects to be back full-time next season and is planning on attending the Class 1 State Championships next weekend at East Rockingham High School.

She said that she has had a lot of help with coaching from others including former Stonewall Jackson track standouts John-Michael Pirtle and Ashton Davis, who volunteered as assistants this season. Former Stonewall Jackson coach Dave Sherwood also came back this season as an assistant coach.

“We do really have good people in place to help, which was very good,” Ritchie said. “But still, the man’s irreplaceable. He’s larger than life.”

Stonewall Jackson’s boys and girls track teams have rallied around the coach and been inspired and motivated in his absence. The team made a banner that said ‘Krol Strong’ on it and have it with them at home and away meets. They also made T-shirts that said ‘Krol Strong’ on them and wore his ‘DK’ initials on their shirts and shoes.

“Coach Krol is really the heart of the team,” Stonewall Jackson senior Carley Bennett said. “He’s coached some of my family members in the past. He loves us all.”

Bennett was in a tight race with Galileo’s Morgan Whitley in the 800-meter run. Krol yelled words of encouragement to her as she went by him toward the finish line.

“I heard him,” Bennett said. “It kind it gives you that firepower that you need. Everything hurts, everything sucks at that moment. But then you get that one thing that pushes you all the way.”

Sophomore Zach Wine said that Krol gave him some advice with his jumps early in Monday’s meet.

“It helped me a little bit because he gave some good pointers to kind of help my jumps,” Wine said.

Junior Riley Gonzalez, who finished third in the 800-meter run, said Krol has been a big motivator even when he hasn’t been at the meets.

“I was thinking about him during (Monday’s) race,” Gonzalez said. “At around the last 200 (meters), there’s a Dick Krol sign there on the fence. So if you look at that it kind of motivates you.”

Krol resigned as football coach in 2014 after 28 seasons at the helm but stayed on as track coach. He helped lead the Generals to a boys track and field state title in 2012. He had 142 victories as head football coach at Stonewall Jackson and over 300 victories overall as a head coach. In October 2018, Stonewall Jackson’s football field was named Dick Krol Field at General Stadium.

Ritchie said it was great to see Krol back at the track meet, where he was driving the cart around and helping with the hurdles.

“I feel really good about him getting stronger and being back,” she said. “I think that’s good for him and good for us to have him here. It makes everything seem like it’s normal a little bit.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com