Speaking purely on a numerical basis, this season's Gateway boys and girls track teams are small.
On the boys' side, there are 22 athletes. On the girls' side, there are 27 and roughly half of them are throwers. But the Gators are a program where the positives keep feeding off each other.
"When a program is successful, kids tend to want to be a part of that," Gateway coach Tom LaBuff said.
Both Gators' teams made it to WPIAL team semifinals in 2012 and LaBuff noted that the athletes are working to keep the postseason tradition going.
At the April 6 South Hills Classic, 10 Gators athletes won medals and some of those medals were earned under unusual circumstances.
Take freshman Aiyanna Crawford, for example. Crawford won four medals, winning the 800-meter dash in 2:18.39, taking second place in the 400-meter run (58.84), a sixth in the 200 (26.63) and an eighth in the 100 (12.99).
"She came off the 800 in 2:18 and won that," recalled LaBuff. "We planned it."
He added that Crawford had the potential to medal at this year's state meet in the 400- or the 800-meter race.
"Aiyanna is the real deal," LaBuff said. "She's talented and good enough to be successful as a sprinter, but she's willing to do the work to be special at the middle distances. ... She's just a delight to work with."
Also at the South Hills Classic, the Gators' Anthony Bauccio launched a discus throw of 160 feet, 5 inches, which got him second place to Wilmington's Jon Yohman. That throw was the fifth longest in Gateway history.
"Although [Bauccio] was a decent thrower in middle school, he might be the hardest working thrower I've ever coached," LaBuff said. "He is not the most talented -- he just works."
LaBuff explained that Bauccio's work ethic was always good, but increased significantly last year.
"He responded to his responsibility to his team," LaBuff said.
Bauccio is now registering consistent 155 to 160 feet discus throws.
The bottom line is that the success of one Gateway track athlete motivates another.
"They have that extra edge," LaBuff said. "[Distance specialist] Tyler Palenchak and [sprinter] Jae'Len Means lead by example. They're not particularly verbal kids -- they lead by example and other kids respond to that."
Palenchak took a third-place medal in the 1,600-meter race on (4:28), and Means won both the 200-meter dash (22.45) and the 400-meter run (49.62).
Means, a junior, actually moved to Gateway from McKeesport last year.
"Last year he couldn't break our top four in the 100," LaBuff recalled. "He moved in from McKeesport last year and started helping out in the 400, which helped his 200 time. He was part of that four-by-one [relay] that was just a great four-by-one. He keeps working harder and harder."
Last May, Gateway's boys' 400-meter relay took second in the WPIAL with a time of 42.74 seconds.
Cameron Gray, another junior, won the 100-meter dash at the South Hills Classic (10.99).
"Jae'Len knows that Cameron's probably going to beat him in the 100, and Cameron knows Jae'Len is probably going to beat him in the 200," LaBuff said.
Each athlete has a different "drive phase" that makes him better for one race versus the other. But LaBuff said the two still compete and push each other.
"They're not giving any quarter," LaBuff said. "Cam wants to run in the mid 21s in the 200. They've both got high goals -- there is no personal animosity."
One last example of the Gateway chain reaction can be seen through Jasmine Penn. Penn has, in the past, worked with Gateways sprinters. But in the absence of injured distance personnel, LaBuff put Penn in an April 10 3,200-meter relay squad for a meet with Plum and Altoona. And the Gators won the event.
"It's very rewarding as a coach to see a kid just beam like [Penn] did," LaBuff said. "It's team first, individual second, and things take care of themselves."