Throwback Thursday: Gary Gault launched Spring Grove tennis
(Editor's note: Reader Carl Diehl shared his thoughts and memories of former Spring Grove tennis coach Gary Gault, who died in May 2004. If Diehl sounds familiar, he is the father of multiple-time York City-County tennis champ Craig Diehl and the grandfather of recent York Suburban graduate Elliot Diehl.)
Gary Gault built a York County tennis power from the foundation in the 1970s.
A teacher in Spring Grove, he began a summer youth tennis program in 1970. He hoped the school could eventually enter the York County Interscholastic Athletic Association. Interest started slow, but it only took a year for Gault and the Rockets to enter the YCIAA with a boys' team. It only took three years to assemble a girls' squad.
By 1976, Spring Grove had a 9-1 record and became a powerhouse in both boys' and girls' tennis. The boys' team won YCIAA titles in 1977, '78, and '79. In 1977, Spring Grove won its first District 3 tennis title. Working with and playing against his players, Gault coached YCIAA tennis singles champions Mark Shaffer in 1976, Ken Grove in '77, Craig Diehl in '78, and Glen Shaffer in '81. In addition, Shaffer and Grove won league doubles in '76 and '77. Craig Diehl and Brian Paley earned the league and district championships, and they placed second in the state competition in 1978. Scott Diehl and Travis Hoover won a league doubles crown in '81.
Under Gault's guidance, the Spring Grove girls' team put together an unprecedented 54 straight YCIAA victories, including league titles from 1977 to '81. The team also won district titles in 1977, '83 and 84. Under Gault's direction, Justine Landis won the female YCIAA singles championship four straight years through 1981, and Carrie Bentzel won three straight through 1988.
Likewise, league dominance continued in girls' doubles — Landis and Kelly Warner won the title in '77, as did Landis and Wynn Shaffer in '78, Landis and Dee Greenplate in '79, Bam and Wynn Shaeffer in 1980, Kathy Chronister and Kelly Bortner won three from '81-'83, Kathy Chronister and Carrie Bentzel in '84, and Carrie and Bethan Smith in '85.
The 1983 doubles team of Chronister and Bortner placed second in the state. Bentzel won district singles championships in 1987 and '88.
In 1986 and for the following two years, Bentzel and Kevin Scott won league, district and state championships in co-ed doubles.
Gault's boys' teams compiled a record of 67-19. His girls' teams were 119-28. Gault's demeanor, friendliness, love of sports by teaching basic fundamentals and involvement in the development of student-athletes emphasizing academic achievement as their No. 1 goal.
During the '70s and '80s, the high school tennis courts were so busy that personnel was hired to limit play to an hour.
In addition to tennis, Gault found time to coach the girls' basketball team from 1977 to '88. His 1983 team advanced further than any other Spring Grove team to date and made it to the District 3 finals and Eastern Regional finals.
Gault's mentored a number of players who went on to college. They include:
MARK SHAEFFER (1977) >> California University of Pennsylvania and pursued tennis career as a teaching professional in Hilton Head, SC.
KEN GROVE (1977) >> Bloomsburg tennis all-American. A three-time PSAC champion.
CRAIG DIEHL (1978) >> Bloomsburg NCAA academic all-American. He won seven PSAC singles and double titles and held the No. 1 ranking in singles and doubles in the Middle States Tennis Association.
GLENN SHAEFFER (1981) >> California University of Pennsylvania, continued his tennis as a teaching professional in Hilton Head, S.C.
JUSTINE LANDIS (1981) >> Earned three PSAC singles titles while at Bloomsburg and was the first Huskie to qualify for the NCAA championships.
KATHY CHRONISTER (1984) >> earned All-Colonial Athletic Conference honors six times while competing at William & Mary.
CARRIE BENTZEL (1988) >> Syracuse academic all-American, Bentzel won two singles titles and one doubles title at Syracuse. She played four years of varsity tennis and is currently No. 3 on the all-time win list at Syracuse.
KEVIN SCOTT (1978) >> Following graduation from Towson, Scott accepted a position in Florida as a tennis teaching professional.
Gault was inducted into the York County Sports Athlete Hall of Fame in 2003 in recognition of his coaching career and development of student-athletes. He died May 5, 2004 and will always be in the hearts and minds of the students in his classroom, on the tennis courts and on the basketball court. His wife, Barbie, accepted the Spring Grove Athletic Hall of Fame plaque in 2015, recognizing Coach Gault's involvement in the total development of the Spring Grove athlete.