METAMORA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Gene Jones has a very important job at track meets, even if you don’t see him work.

“I look at the job as trying to get everything lines up so that the running events will go smoothly and in an orderly process,” says the retired Metamora High School guidance counselor.

Long before the starter’s gun begins a race, Jones is getting the runners in place, in order, and answering their questions as the meet clerk. He’s been doing it for nearly 30 years.

And he’ll do it this week at the the biggest meet of the year, the Illinois High School Association state championships.

“The only negative is I never get to see the meet,” Jones said. “People will ask if I saw the race. Nope. I’m getting ready for the next one.”

Jones has coached cross country at Metamora for the last 52 autumns. But in the spring, you’ll find him on the track, helping make sure area meets run smoothly.

He does it in all kinds of weather, typically two or three times a week. He’ll turn 78 in August and just loves being around high school athletes.

As long as he can get them to pay attention.

“If they all report (to me) at the same time, I can give the instructions once. That’s fantastic!”

Other people do recognize his hard work.

“A young man came up and said, ‘I had you as the clerk in grade school and all through high school. Thank you.’ And I said thank you,” Jones said. “I appreciate that.”