Bob Jenkins’ legacy is on quarter-mile oval tracks, but his name will live on forever along a stretch of highway near Northwestern High School.
That’s where Jenkins, who died in 2013 at 79, coached thousands of young people on teams and never – not once – cut from a team a student who was willing to try.
On Saturday, many of the athletes Jenkins coached will be on hand as the state Department of Transportation officially christens Rawlinson Road – from S.C. 5 to Heckle Boulevard – the “Coach Robert T. ‘Bob’ Jenkins Memorial Highway.”
Countless runners sprinted, jogged or just survived that stretch of asphalt and so many other roads, vales, fields and tracks to run for Jenkins.
But Jenkins was not just a coach. He was a teacher.
Long before Nike, Jenkins told kids who were willing: “Just do it.”
“If Bob were here, he would say, ‘That road is not for me, that road is for all the kids who were on the teams,’” said Margaret Jenkins, Jenkins’ wife of 54 years. “The students mattered to him. Their success mattered to him.”
Jenkins’ achievements in a career spanning four decades likely will never be matched. He led his teams to seven state titles, and was named state and national cross-country coach of the year along the way.
Jenkins coached at all three high schools in Rock Hill and at York High School during his career as a teacher, guidance counselor and coach with more than 1,000 wins in an astounding run from 1965 to 2009.
“In all those years, all those teams, he never cut anyone,” Margaret Jenkins said. “If a student was willing to try, he was on the team.”
If a kid was slow as molasses, Jenkins turned the runner toward long distance or cross-country. Boys teams and girls teams, didn’t matter. Jenkins so believed in inclusiveness that he helped found South Carolina’s cross-country association so kids who just wanted to run for miles and miles could be part of a team.
Nobody was too slow, too fat, too skinny, too small, for Bob Jenkins.
He coached athletes such as Mitch Greeley, who pole vaulted all the way to the Olympic trials, and kids who came in last in every single meet, when there were only three people clapping at the end – Momma, Daddy, and tall, gangly Bob Jenkins.
Jenkins taught and loved them all.
A resolution honoring Jenkins – sponsored by state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, and supported by the entire York County legislative delegation – unanimously passed the Legislature earlier this year.
Even the politicians couldn’t mess this up.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to go?
The state Department of Transportation will unveil road signs dedicating Rawlinson Road between S.C. 5 and Heckle Boulevard the “Coach Robert T. ‘Bob’ Jenkins Memorial Highway” after a short ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday in the cafeteria at Northwestern High School, where Jenkins coached for a quarter century.