John Radspinner made such an impact coaching cross country and track and field at Rincon/University, athletes that he'd never even coached attended his recent farewell gathering.
He is, essentially, irreplaceable.
Radspinner, 62, resigned from his coaching duties in December because of health reasons. He has dealt with several cancerous tumors since age 14 and is currently dealing with more, which is keeping him from coaching his way - 100 percent.
He wants to come back and coach again, but Radspinner said he's not sure it's possible to do so. Three small tumors on his spine have been slowing him down; his doctor is keeping a close eye on them before deciding what to do.
"There are some days the back hurts so bad I don't even want to get out of bed," Radspinner said. "I can't rake a long jump pit like that."
Radspinner, who also electronically times Rincon's home meets, dealt with something similar two years ago and was forced to sit down during most practices. He said he made it through the cross country season with the help of his assistants, but couldn't do same with track and field.
The bright side of Radspinner's retirement is all the free time he has. He went to see the play "All Shook Up" with his wife, Rossana, at the Pima College West Campus on Wednesday night. Had he still been coaching, that most likely wouldn't have happened.
"Instead of pulling weeds I'm ahead of the weeds," Radspinner said.
However, there are also many downsides.
Chris Golston, who shared coaching duties with Radspinner the last six years, said his former partner will be greatly missed. Golston ran for the Rangers in the 1990s and has been the boys coach since 2003.
He is now the coach for both boys and girls, with John Copeland and Lucius Miller serving as his assistants.
"I'm missing him a lot," Golston said. "He was highly organized and highly efficient so it made the machine run that much more smoothly."
Also, partially because of Radspinner's absence, the Rangers won't host their annual Rincon Relays meet this year. Radspinner used to do all the behind-the-scenes work as well as the timing for the event. Rincon athletic director Hank Matz said the invitational, or something similar, will likely resume next year.
Radspinner, meanwhile, said he can't help but feel like he has abandoned a few of his athletes.
Senior Kendra Knittel, a sprinter and cross country runner, said life on the track isn't the same without him around.
"He went out of his way to make sure everything went well and to make sure everybody on the team got what they needed," she said.
Radspinner has had a passion for track since he first discovered it at around 8 years old and has been involved in it every year in some manner since 1966, when he first met Pima County Sports Hall of Fame coach Jim Mielke and became his assistant.
Down the road at Pima College, Radspinner helped Yuliana Lopez become a national champion triple jumper. In his time at Rincon, he always had some of the best athletes in Southern Arizona.
"I've been all around the world because of track, and I wouldn't have traded that for anything," Radspinner said.
Dan Reynolds, a hall of fame track official, called Radspinner a true student of the sport.
"He's worked at all levels of the sport," Reynolds said. "He's done a lot, he's done a hell of a lot for the community. I think he'll be missed."
Golston said he doesn't see Radspinner coming back to coaching - as much as he would like him to - but could picture him returning as an occasional helper.
"Maybe I could call him right now and tell him, 'I have three or four freshman girls with good legs for high jump. Could you come out for a week and bless them with your knowledge on high jump really quickly?'" Golston said.
While the Rangers compete at the Desert Classic Invitational at Queen Creek on Saturday, Radspinner will be at home. But no matter where he is, he still thinks like a coach.
"I'll see a kid walk by, and I'll tell my wife, 'That could be a long jumper,'" Radspinner said. "She keeps telling me I'm not coaching anymore.
"It's kind of hard to stop. My brain keeps thinking that way."
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The team's roster was released this week and features 17 local players, led by Salpointe Catholic running back Johnny Peña, who will play at Brown University next year.
A full roster is available at azstarnet.com/sports/blogs/high-school-hot-shots/.
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Contact Daniel Gaona at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7761. On Twitter @DanielGaona13