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Chris Stone ‘Put the Kids First’

  • Chris Stone, the jumps and sprints coach at Lebanon High School, fires the gun for the start of the 4x200 relay at Leverone Fieldhouse in Hanover, N.H., on Dec. 22, 2007. (Valley News - Nicholas Richer) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, May 26, 2018

Conway, n.h. — The Lebanon High track and field team on Thursday lost a significant friend and mentor as 15th-year assistant coach Chris Stone, 66, died following a two-year battle with multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer.

Stone was honored prior to Saturday’s NHIAA Division II meet at Kennett High School when Raiders throwing coach Beth Perkins read excerpts from a tribute written in part by former coach Andrew Gamble, with whom Stone helped Lebanon capture a total of 21 boys and girls indoor and outdoor state championships from 2004-13. Stone, who specialized in jumping, was also part of Lebanon’s boys 2014 outdoor championship team under current coach Kevin Lozeau.

“The addition of Chris to the coaching staff created the stability needed for the team to be successful,” Perkins read to all D-II teams, which gathered for an all-state awards ceremony prior to Saturday’s meet. “He was the yin to former Coach Gamble’s yang. Stone was the grounding force behind the success of the program, and his calm and nurturing personality provided the athletes the confidence and love they needed to be successful.”

Gamble agreed that Stone’s calming presence benefited athletes immensely.

“He was the voice of reason when I was all jazzed up,” Gamble said in a Friday phone interview. “He calmed me down and took care of a lot of the things that used to drive me nuts. If there was a kid who needed help (replacing) a spike in one of his cleats, for example, I’d start going on and on, saying, ‘That needed to be taken care of a long time ago,’ and he would pull the kid aside, tell him it was fine and get the spike fixed.

“He was always doing that kind of thing. He always had things like extra spikes and was always ready to help out.”

A Windsor native who grew up in Meriden, Stone attended Kimball Union Academy. His favorite sport had always been soccer, but he began coaching track after his son, Ian, joined the Hershey youth track program in Lebanon. A former chef in the KUA kitchen, Stone joined the Raiders coaching staff when Ian was a freshman and later began working in the Lebanon High cafeteria so his schedule would be more aligned with the team’s.

All the while, Stone developed his coaching skills and helped many athletes develop into champions, including former Raiders sprinting and jumping extraordinaire Corinne Kennedy, now at Cornell University.

Kennedy was at Kennett on Saturday to support the Raiders.

“I first met Chris when I was in third grade, at Gamble’s track camp, and in high school he was one of my best friends on the team,” Kennedy said. “He was a coach who truly cared about you as a person even more than as an athlete. He would give you all kinds of great life advice. He was really a grandfather-type figure for me.”

Stone was also quite competitive and became increasingly knowledgeable about track as the years went on.

Senior jumper and hurdler Sophia Miller attributes much of her development to Stone’s guidance.

“My (jumping) PRs have gone up about a foot since freshman year thanks to him,” she said. “He really helped with the second phase of the triple jump, where a lot of people hesitate.”

After Perkins’ speech, longtime Merrimack Valley coach Bob Mullen led a moment of silence for Stone, a colleague he said contributed much to D-II’s coaching community.

“He was very friendly, even when one of his athletes was competing hard against yours,” Mullen said. “He’d always talk with you about what went right and what went wrong. He was a friend first.”

Perkins felt it was important to honor Stone on Saturday because Stone’s love of coaching was most pronounced during meets.

The Raiders also donned maroon headbands reading “TEAM STONE” that twin sisters Kath and Kim Merchant made.

“Meets like this are all about the kids, and Chris always put the kids first,” Perkins said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.