As the first athlete from Antioch High to ever stand on the track and field state championship medal podium, Curtis was rewarded for setting the standard in speed. His school record in the 880-yard run lasted for 12 years and in 1949 was the eighth fastest time recorded that year in the United States according to Track and Field News. An Antioch Ledger sports article called him “the greatest runner ever produced in Antioch.” During the Post WWII years, Curtis set a series of running records that gained regional, state and national recognition. During his senior year, he established a new meet record of 1:59.0 in the 880-yard run at the Contra Costa Athletic League meet, (precursor to the DVAL), breaking the previous record set in 1934, and earning First Team All-League. Curtis would make two trips to the California state meet, as a junior in 1948 and as senior in ’49. At the Cal Aggie Invitational at U.C. Davis – featuring athletes from 57 high schools in Northern California – Curtis broke a 16-year-old meet record in the 880 with a time of 2:01.4. He was champion at the North Coast Section meet as well and earned Antioch’s first ever medal at the California Interscholastic Federation championships. Running on a badly blistered foot, Curtis placed third at state with his personal best of 1:58.8, cheered on by coach Jack Danilovich at the Los Angeles Coliseum: In the same state meet Pittsburg High phenomenon and future NFL Hall of Famer John Henry Johnson set a national high school record in the discus. Curtis continued his running career at Modesto Junior College in 1949-1950. The Modesto Bee featured him in one of its weekly sports “caricatures” by Murray Olderman. The cartoonist exaggerated the “lanky” limbs of the 6-foot-3 runner as being able to “cover gobs of ground,” as he sprinted past his diminutive competitors who were captioned as saying “no fair using stilts!” While at Modesto, Curtis switched to the longer one-mile distance, running a 4:26.7, which contributed to the Pirates winning the Northern California junior college track title. When he wasn’t on the track, Curtis played left field for the AHS Panthers’ baseball team in 1949. His .379 batting average helped Antioch on the journey to a league title.
The 1980s produced a bumper crop of talented athletes at Antioch High. Standing out among them is Karen Christianson, who with her twin sister, Sharon, led the Panther softball team to the Panther girls’ first North Coast Championship in 1984. As team captain for both softball and volleyball, Karen set the bar high for athletic leadership and performance. The 5-foot-9 athlete began her contributions to AHS as a sophomore in 1982. She played volleyball as well as junior varsity basketball and was catcher on the 1982 DVAL Championship softball team. She continued as a three-sport athlete as a junior in 1982- 1983, playing varsity volleyball on the DVAL championship team that posted an overall 16-6 record and went on to NCS competition. She was the leader of two outstanding varsity teams as a senior: volleyball and softball. The Panther volleyball squad ended the season 21-7-3 qualifying for a berth in the North Coast tournament and Karen was named to Second Team All-DVAL. Coach Steve Earnhardt said she was instrumental in one standout game against Northgate in which her 12 kills made all the difference in the Panther win. The Lady Panthers’ home plate defender was no doubt a key part of the softball team’s phenomenal 28-1 season in 1984. The catcher’s clutch 2-out, 2-run single vaulted the Panthers to a 2-0 victory over San Ramon and sent the team to the NCS championship against Montgomery High of Santa Rosa. Her crucial hit earned kudos from the Big “C” Athletic Club, which named her as its female Athlete of the Week in Contra Costa County. She also had a base hit in the NCS championship 1-0 victory over Montgomery. Her solid batting and catching led to Karen being named to the All-North Coast Tournament team as well as the All-Tournament Team for the St. Vincent Ferrer Softball Tournament in Vallejo. Karen’s league batting average of .300 during her senior year led to being selected for Second Team All-DVAL honors. She was given the Coach’s Award from Head Coach Andria Edwards for her outstanding contributions to the team and received a scholarship from the Antioch High School Athletic Boosters. Sacramento City College was the next stop in Karen’s athletic career, where her softball skills only improved when she switched position to first base. In her final year there in 1986, she had a batting average of .420 and knocked in 33 RBIs. Her team won the Camino Norte Conference championship and was third in state play-offs. Karen was selected to the California Community College Coaches’ Association All-State Team and the All-Region Team. Those amazing community college stats earned Karen an athletic scholarship to California State University, Sacramento, to complete her final two years of college. At CSUS, Karen led the Hornets to the NCAA regional finals for both her junior and senior years, hitting .304 and serving as co-captain as a senior. In 1988 she was one of three Sac State players to be named to the NCAA Division II All-Region Team and was on the Division II All-America Second Team, as well as making the Sacred Heart Tournament All-Tourney Team in Connecticut. In 1988 the Hornet team finished 57-12, which set a school record for most victories, and finished the season ranked fifth in the United States among women’s Division II softball teams. As co-captain, Karen’s senior year performance on the team included a .289 average, with 33 runs, four doubles, four triples, 19 RBIs and 14 walks, striking out only five times in 226 at-bats while leading the team with 10 stolen bases.
The honor of being an All-American is reserved for only a select few who have distinguished themselves as the best athletes in their sport in the United States. Marion Gelhaus earned this accolade three times, becoming the only known Antioch athlete, male or female, to be an All-American in high school, community college and at a four year university. As the Antioch High School swimming and diving team’s MVP, and a three-year diving-only MVP, she dominated her sport at the school and North Coast Section, winning the NCS crown as a sophomore, junior and senior, the first person to be the NCS diving champion for three consecutive years in 1980-1982. During her final North Coast appearance against 77 competitors, Marion set an NCS scoring record of 467.00, beating the second place finisher by 83 points and breaking the record she set as a junior of 434.15. The NCS performance earned Marion a position in 1982 on the girls’ high school All-America diving squad, the only Northern California diver to be named to the 30-person group, representing the best high school divers in the nation. As the daughter of Clark and Ingrid Gelhaus, owners and operators of Antioch’s Solar Swim and Gym, she was introduced to a pool at three weeks old. She could swim the length of her parent’s 75-foot gym pool by age three and by age four was on the Delta Skimmers recreational swim team. Marion was performing synchronized swimming routines by age seven and dedicated herself to diving by the time she was nine. By 1977, she was diving at the AAU Junior Olympics, qualifying for her age group at the national level every year until 1983. Long-time AHS Head Swimming and Diving Coach Greg DeChristofaro coached the teen diving prodigy exclusively for her freshman year. Marion worked continuously to hone her techniques with Coach DeChristofaro and with the additional help of her mom, Ingrid, who was an assistant AHS coach. Marion’s twice daily practices were under the watchful eye of Ingrid, who mentored Marion through the hundreds of hours on the diving board required to achieve the precise form required of a champion. Even with hours of practice each day, Marion maintained a GPA between 3.5-3.8 for her high school career. At Diablo Valley College, the veteran diver qualified for the California Community College State Diving Championships in 1983. She placed first in both the one-meter and three-meter springboard, earning her second All-American honor. Marion turned down a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico and was recruited by Arizona State University, before choosing California State University, Northridge, which gave her a scholarship in diving. While at CSUN, she qualified for three consecutive years to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association level. In 1984, Marion earned a bronze medal in the 3-meter springboard. She won two more bronze medals in ’85 and ’86 for the 1-meter springboard and a silver medal on 3-meter springboard at the NCAA National Swimming and Diving Championships. She led the Matadors to second place finishes in ’84 and ’85. Marion was named Most Valuable Diver for CSUN in 1986 and was named an All-American for the third time. Marion graduated with a degree in exercise physiology in 1986 and completed an advanced degree in physical therapy in 1992, the field in which she currently works. Following college, Marion coached the Occidental College diving team for two years, and serves as an assistant diving coach for the Channel Coast Divers in Ventura, Calif., an AAU-registered club team she helped found in 2008.
Few football players distinguish themselves enough to be put on a “Dream Team,” but Doug was the only Antioch player in 1963-64 to earn a spot on the coach-selected Contra Costa County All-Star squad and was chosen by the Daily Ledger for its All-Decade Team, composed of the best players to come out of AHS between 1960-1970. The senior was an All-Diablo Valley Athletic League tackle and received the MVP award for AHS as well as Antioch High’s Gino Marchetti Award for outstanding lineman, named after the NFL Hall of Famer and AHS alumni. The offensive and defensive tackle played every football game as a starter during his senior year. Doug earned a full-ride football scholarship to Utah State University, and led the Aggies as captain during his senior year in 1968. He was one of the two top tackles on the Aggie freshman team, but needed surgery for a severe knee injury as a sophomore and was out the entire season. His scholarship was cut in half and Doug had to prove his worth, which he did. In the first week of drills as a junior, he was back in top shape and led the Aggies to an eventual 7-2-1 record. The Antioch mailbox of Doug’s parents was frequently the depository of letters of interest from the NFL; the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals and Green Bay Packers all wanted to draft him. The Packers triumphed, and selected Doug in the eighth round of the 1969 draft, signing the 6-foot-5 250-pounder to a guard position, the 194th overall pick in the NFL. The official 1969 Green Bay Press Book lists Doug’s 5.0 seconds in the 40-yard dash and describes his qualities as “good speed and quickness, keeps his feet well, quick reactions and agility.” The Packers decided to keep their existing players after winning two Super Bowls, and released Doug after a month into the pre-season. He was picked up by the semi-pro Spokane Shockers and played for the Continental League team for one season. The following year, the NFL gave Doug another shot, and he was picked up as a free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs (coached by Hall of Famer Hank Stram) but was cut in the pre-season. Football never left Doug’s blood. He completed a master’s degree after his football career ended and embarked upon a 29-year teaching career. He retired in 2002 but continues as an assistant football coach at Minico High in Idaho, where he was honored as State Assistant Coach of the Year in 2004.
One-high-school towns often elevate their football players into local heroes; their gridiron achievements living on for decades, preserved in local folklore. One such local sports hero was Joe Harlan. Tragically, he died in 1950 in an industrial accident in a local mill. Antioch’s City Hall was closed to allow all city workers to attend his funeral. Joe was only 20. During the short time he played, the Oklahoma-born kid called “Tulsa Joe” recorded a list of accomplishments that propelled Antioch High to two undefeated football seasons and 20 consecutive wins over three seasons before the streak ended. During his sophomore year, the Panthers went 10-0, scoring 364 total points while allowing only 77 from their opponents to win the Contra Costa Athletic League title. AHS went undefeated again in 1946-47 during Joe’s junior year. He had an injury-plagued season, but managed to rush for six touchdowns and still led the league in scoring with 37 points. During one dramatic win against Acalanes High, Joe carried the ball 15 times for a total of 159 yards and two touchdowns. In another key game, his Panther teammates made key blocks as he dashed through a line of Red Devils in a 71-yard touchdown run that led to a 12-0 shutout of Mt. Diablo High. Joe was selected to the All-CCAL First Team roster as a fullback, the first time a team was officially selected. During the 1947-48 season, the 165-pound running back was unanimously chosen First Team All-CCCAL again for his league-leading statistics; eight touchdowns, 13 kicked points and 61 total points scored while playing three different positions: quarterback, fullback, kicker and defensive stand-out. His teammates selected Joe the co-winner of the football MVP award and Coach Jack Danilovich chose him as a team co-captain. Antioch produced many great football players, but Joe has a special place within the heart of old-timers. He has the distinction of scoring three touchdowns over three consecutive wins against archrival Pittsburg High. The storied Big-Little Game annual match-ups between the two East Contra Costa athletic powerhouse schools attracted thousands of spectators, filling the schools’ stadiums to capacity. As a sophomore in the 1945-46 Big-Little Game, the left halfback rushed for a touchdown in a 38-7 victory; as a junior, his 74-yard rushing TD was a component of the 13-0 shut-out of the Pirates; as a senior, the Pirates were again shut-out 19-0, with Joe contributing a 31-yard TD run. Joe was the second leading hitter and co-captain for the Panthers’ 1948 baseball team as well, chalking up a batting average of .375. Joe was also an ace pitcher, who struck out 10 batters in the final 6-2/3 innings to defeat Alhambra High 3-1, sharing a no-hitter with Chuck Stapleton, later to become the namesake of a county track meet in his honor. Joe, in between baseball games, ran track, winning the Contra Costa County 120-yard high hurdles championship with a time of 15.9 seconds. Following high school, Joe served 18 months in the U.S. Navy as an airplane mechanic and played football with a semi-pro team in Florida. Following his death, the Joe Harlan Memorial Trophy was created in his honor and presented by the Antioch Quarterback Club.
The Most Outstanding Athlete at Antioch High in 1956 was also the top campus political leader. Student Body President Ray Harrington was captain of the 1955-56 football team doing quadruple duty as tackle, fullback, middle linebacker and later on as a signal-caller, chosen by coach Brooks Golden to direct the team when a broken collarbone put quarterback Randy Autentico out of commission for the year. Randy recalls that Ray was “one of these guys who could dominate. A big player over 200 pounds was unusual back then. He was strong AND he could run.” Ray had the respect of teammates who chose him co-captain of the Antioch-Pittsburg Big-Little Game. He was football MVP and the recipient of the Joe Harlan Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Antioch Quarterback Club. Ray was a varsity starter as a sophomore and junior until a dislocated elbow sidelined him for the season following the second game of the year, played against McClymonds High. Ray was named by an Antioch Daily Ledger sportswriter as “the best lineman in the county,” a “big strong kid who could tackle and block like a demon…and perhaps more important THINK.” Ten years later the local paper’s sports writers selected him as part of the Antioch Ledger’s “Cream of the Crop” team made up of the best players between 1950-1967. Some of Ray’s biggest achievements were playing offense and defense in two prestigious all-star games featuring top high school players in California; the North-South Shrine Game played in the L.A. Coliseum before more than 56,000 spectators and the East Bay-West Bay Game in Kezar Stadium. Ray was placed on the Shrine game squad only a week before practice began, but made himself valuable by taking part in 13 defensive plays. The three-year “Block A” letterman in football also received varsity letters for two years: as a shot putter in track and field and as a guard on the basketball court. Following graduation, Ray accepted a prestigious football scholarship to Stanford University, where he played on the starting line of the undefeated freshman team. In that era players were required to play both defense and offense. Filling the bruising jobs of left guard and nose guard left Ray with three concussions. As a red shirt sophomore, Ray received seven more concussions and was advised by the Stanford team physician that he needed to give up his football career or face permanent injury. Ray then left Stanford during his senior year and began a career with the U.S. Postal Service. The father of 12 retired as postmaster of Glendale, California in 1992 and continued his involvement in many community benefit activities in Paradise, California.
More than a thousand Antioch High students found success as track and field and cross-country athletes under the tutelage of a former Panther. This 1964 alumnus created a winning dynasty by coaching AHS teams to 16 league and division championships in track and field and cross-country and three North Coast Division II championships during the 1970s. Mike Hurd’s track and field boys’ class “B” teams won five DVAL championships; 1971, ’72, ’74, ’75 and ’76. The varsity boys’ track teams won championships in ’73, ’74, ’76, ’77 and ’79. The 1971 defeat of Pittsburg High by the class “B” team was the Pirates’ first time losing the league title. The 1973 varsity DVAL title was the first league championship in Antioch’s history. One of his biggest success stories was the boys’ 1971 cross-country team, which won a Diablo Valley Athletic League championship, North Coast Division II championship and went on to finish second at the NCS Track Championships. Prior to his tenure at AHS, Mike helped coach Fresno’s Roosevelt High track team to a second place state finish in 1969. Mike began his first year as Head Track Coach at AHS with a 30-athlete roster and later quintupled the size of the program. Separate girls’ track and cross-country teams were added in 1973, then incorporated with the boys’ teams into one program under Mike’s direction. Nine relay teams and 60 individual athletes he and his assistants coached remain on the AHS all-time top 10 lists as of 2010. His varsity boys’ track and field teams never finished below second place in the DVAL and had an overall record of 68-10-1, winning eight out of nine years against Pittsburg. He was named DVAL Coach of the Year in 1973 and the AHS Boosters Club’s Coach of the Year in 1971. Mike’s years of coaching were recognized by the California State Senate with a Certificate of Recognition awarded by then State Senator Tom Torlakson in 2001. Following his decade at AHS, Mike was responsible for all the field events and decathlon for five years at U.C. Berkeley. During that time, Cal’s teams set several milestones; the 1980 team was the first to beat USC in 37 years, athletes set records in the high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus and decathlon and 25 athletes gained spots on the all-time top 10 list of performances. He coached four athletes who went on to become Cal All-Americans and three who were Pac-10 champions. Besides coaching, Mike was involved in the track and field world on a larger scale. He was creator and meet director for the AHS Chuck Stapleton Relays for eight years, naming the annual event after the former Antioch athlete and long-time athletic booster. He also organized the Hershel Miles Cross-Country Jamboree between 1976-78, named after the late adult distance runner and booster, a great-uncle to current major league baseball player and Antioch native Aaron Miles. Mike returned to AHS as a volunteer coach in 1993 to work with the high jumpers, including son Matt, the three-time BVAL champion and current AHS record-holder at 6’8”, set in 1996. The long-time coach volunteered at Deer Valley High from 1998-2001, working with school record women’s high jumper Gabrielle Abernathy, and his second son, Chris, a two-time league champion and DVHS pole vault record-holder.
The “ace southpaw” brought Antioch High roaring back into competition as a baseball powerhouse after a WWII hiatus, leading the Panthers in back- to- back league championships. The 6-foot-2 senior pitched a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter during the 1950 season. Chuck’s no-hit performance against Alhambra High was described by a local sportswriter as “masterful” in its near-perfect elimination of 23 batters. Chuck was the only Antioch player chosen for the annual Prep Baseball Classic All-Star Game, sponsored by the American Legion. He pitched two innings in the game, which pitted public school standouts from throughout Contra Costa against the top talent from San Francisco’s Catholic schools. The Contra Costa team won the game with a 7-3 upset victory, held at the AAA Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks’ baseball park. As a junior, the power hurler had a 6 win-1 loss league record. Chuck threw a four-hit, no-run 1-0 victory, clinching the Contra Costa Athletic League title in 1949. The Panthers’ top pitcher allowed 37 hits and 13 runs and had six victories in almost 53 innings pitched. The fine defensive play of teammates, Bob Ehrlich, Jim Coalter and Jack Garrow was also credited with contributing to the Panthers’ overall season record of 11-3. In addition to being an outstanding baseball player, Chuck earned kudos in track and field, tying for first place at the 1948 North Coast Section track championships with a 5’8” leap in the high jump as a sophomore. To gain experience before beginning a pro baseball career, Chuck spent his first post-graduation summer pitching in the semi-pros, and continued to be mentored by Coach Babe Atkinson. Chuck went to Stockton to pitch in batting practice for the Stockton Ports of the California League, and for the Oakland Oaks. Chuck received a second letter of interest from the St. Louis Browns in the summer of 1950. The first was sent while he was an AHS student, requesting that the American League team would get “first call,” when the lefty decided to turn pro, a common practice to obtain players prior to when major league baseball began conducting an official draft in 1965. The Boston Red Sox also sought Chuck’s services, but after a full night of contract negotiations lasting until 3 a.m., with Coach Babe Atkinson at his side, Cleveland Indians scout Mike Catron convinced the 18-year old to sign a contract. By spring 1951 the long, lean southpaw was sent to Bakersfield for spring training. The America League team optioned Chuck’s contract to the Pittsburg Diamonds of the Far West “D” League, coached by Vince DiMaggio. The Diamonds whipped the Redding Browns twice in a double-header on June 12, 1951, before the team shockingly disbanded at midnight due to financial woes after a 46-game season, going out on top of their division with a record of 28-18.
Being slightly more than 6-foot-6 tall offers some great advantages to an athlete who wants to play basketball. That held true for Rich Jones, who became Antioch High’s Most Valuable Player on the varsity hoops team. However, Rich’s multi-dimensional talents allowed him to earn nine varsity letters throughout his three-year prep career between 1972-1975, in which he played on five Diablo Valley Athletic League championship teams. It’s a high achievement that the Co-Athlete of the Year for 1975 graduated with an overall 3.8 GPA, since he never had a break during three straight three-sport years playing football, basketball and running track. Over his entire prep career, “I started in every game in football, and every game in basketball except one,” Rich said. However, it was the pigskin that was his passion. “I always wanted to play football ever since I was a little boy and played for the Belshaw Bullets in the Antioch Junior Football League. I was always the tall lanky one.” As a towering sophomore (already 6-foot-5, but only 180 pounds) Rich was the top rebounder and scorer on the basketball team and earned second team All-DVAL honors in both track and football. He led the league in interceptions. By his junior year in 1973-74, Rich had moved up to First Team All-DVAL recognition in football and was again named to the Second Team All-DVAL in track and field. It was in track that Rich made a lasting impression at AHS. At the end of his 1975 senior year, the speedy Panther team captain broke four records; the high hurdles, 180-yard low hurdles, 330-yard low hurdles and high jump, clearing his own height of 6 feet, 6 ¼ inches, which was a record that lasted until 1996. His performance in the 120-yard high hurdles qualified for a berth in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships. This led to being chosen Most Valuable Player in Track and Field in 1975, the second year in a row receiving the AHS honor, as well as being named the Most Outstanding Athlete of the Chuck Stapleton Relays. On spring awards night that year, Rich also walked away as a two-fisted winner taking home the MVP award in basketball as well. His greatest recognition came through football. The free safety player was chosen All-East Bay First Team as a junior and was a unanimous choice as a senior, selected by the East Bay Prep Writers’ Association. League coaches selected Rich as All-DVAL for both offense and defense. Utah State University was eager to place him on its gridiron and offered a full-ride scholarship. Rich played tight end and safety for the Aggies.
She was not a head coach, or league founder, or a standout athlete. However, Jill Joseph wove herself into the fabric of the Antioch sports community, serving as the number one unofficial cheerleader and mom to thousands of athletes and students who wore black and gold for the Antioch High School Panthers. It was Jill who coordinated team transportation, ticket sales and snack bar concessions for nearly every sporting event at Antioch High beginning in the 1970s. Jill provided loving support and encouragement for three decades of students and community causes until her death in 2010. One former student expressed the sentiments of many when she wrote this condolence on Jill’s online memorial page sponsored by the Contra Costa Times: “In a place where it was really easy to get lost in the crowd, Mrs. Joseph knew you and loved you. During high school, that was everything. I remember all the pictures of kids that she had on her walls; mine was one of them. Thank you Mrs. Joseph, your kind heart and spirit are a part of who I am today.” Jill’s office at AHS was the unofficial historical shrine to black and gold; a tassel tacked near the ceiling next to group photos for each graduating class, team photos, pennants and dozens of snap-shots of students who had gone on to personal successes. Antioch’s Chamber of Commerce named Jill the Citizen of the Year in 1994 and AHS selected her as one of the first honorees on its Walk of Fame. The choir room at Antioch High was dedicated to her on January 20, 2011. Jill graduated from AHS in 1963 then spent 34 more years at Antioch High, where her actual job title – “accounting clerk” – never accurately conveyed the dozens of un-credited roles she took on at the school. Jill coordinated student events and was an assistant coach, helping Sports Legends coaching honoree Mike Hurd during his teams’ string of track and field championships in the 1970s. Crucial high school events such as homecoming week activities and end of the year commencement could not have run as smoothly without Jill’s hours of work and attention to details. Many local fund-raising golf tournaments, crab feeds and sporting events had Jill working in the background, doing the volunteer activities that make such events possible. Jill’s tireless efforts also helped bring the Antioch Sports Legends Program to fruition.