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Alan Pfister knows he has a tough act to follow in Ron Jones, Missoula Hellgate's long-time head track coach.

A few years ago, in 1980, Pfister competed for the man.

"I actually graduated from Hellgate in 1980," said Pfister, who on Thursday was named head track and field coach for the Knights, replacing Jones, who retired on June 1. "Ron Jones was my head coach."

"You don't have to make any big changes, but you certainly won't be able to fill those shoes the way Ron Jones did."

Pfister, who turned 46 last week, won the State AA pole vault title in 1980, when the Knights won their last boys' state track title. He went 14 feet, 9 inches, then a school record. A guy named Mike Ramos came along and went 15-0 not long after.

"So I had it for a whopping year," said Pfister, who went on to clear 16-9 during his career at Montana State in Bozeman (while Ramos went on to win the NCAA decathlon).

A math teacher at Hellgate the past 13 years, Pfister joined the track and field staff upon his return to his alma mater.

"The staff was very supportive and Ron had always been supportive the last 10, 12 years - just knowing that he wouldn't be there forever," Pfister said.

It was fairly close - Jones was at Hellgate 43 years, the last 36 as boys' head track coach, and the last 20 as the girls' coach.

Pfister and his wife, Linda, have four children, including two daughters still in school, in the sixth and seventh grades. He looks forward to coaching them, but has the makings of a decent track team now, with Bobbi Furrer leading the way.

In May the Knight girls finished sixth at the state meet, while the boys finished 13th out of 14 Class AA schools.

"We have on the girls' side a real good nucleus coming back," Pfister said. "We lost a few, but we've got the great support of the assistant staff, who help put together a great group of individuals to make up a team."

Pfister also said building depth is key.

"Being a smaller AA school, it's a lot about numbers. It's a big part to overcome," he said. "We're certainly diverse, and have awesome kids to work with."

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