While rummaging around in my attic recently, I ran across a long-forgotten photo from my long-ago days of high school and the two-mile relay team of the Halls High School (Knoxville, Tennessee) track team in 1971-72. We worked hard, trained hard, competed hard, and learned a lot of hard lessons about teamwork. And it all paid off.
Not that we became the focus of college track scouts or even the attention of opposing schools’ teams. But we were one of the earliest track teams for the school. In the first year, we were coached by Frank Galbraith, a godly Christian teacher for whom I had developed a great respect ever since he taught me American history in eighth grade. He taught us a lot about track, but none of us lettered that year. In fact, we didn’t even come close. But Coach Galbraith deserted us at the end of that year and went to our rival Farragut with its distance superstar Johnny Angel.
In the second year, we were led by Coach Sharp, one of whose first announcements was that he was raising the number of points required to earn a letter jacket. We runners on the two-mile-relay team were dismayed, but we kept at it. What did we have to lose? Besides, we had fun running many, many miles together in training–up and down the hills of Bona Vista subdivision, along McCloud Road and Andersonville Pike, and back to the school via Emory Road.
That year, my last in high school, we set school records almost every time we raced. We didn’t come in first, but we set and broke the scant school records repeatedly, and those second- and third-place points accumulated over the season. The school principal announced our team members’ names over the school PA system during homeroom announcements. We sometimes even got our names and times in the newspaper–in print so small you had to squint to see it even with a magnifying glass. But there they were nonetheless. And we all lettered.
That might not seem like much to athletes today, but one must consider that at the time, Halls did not even have a cinder track, let alone an asphalt track. Hey, all we had were a worn single-file path around the perimeter of the football field; two large, hilly subdivisions; and miles of public roads! The only time we got to practice on a real track was once when we borrowed the track at Central High School across Black Oak Ridge in Fountain City.
The accompanying admittedly poor-quality photo shows three of the four members of that august two-mile-relay team. Missing from the photo for some reason was Dale Wayland. I wish he could have been there because without him in place, the team was incomplete. He typically was our lead-off man.
Dale handed off the baton to David Hansard, standing on the left in the photo. David added to the lead that Dale gave him. A real consistent competitor.
Kneeling is the late Johnny Hamel, our anchor man. He was the shortest man on the team, but his legs churned with the pistons of a race car’s engine.
Finally, standing at the right is yours truly. I hope I didn’t pull the team down, but if I was having a bad race, I knew that Johnny would do whatever it took to pull us into contention for points.
I don’t know about the other guys who were on the team, but I relish the memories–and the lessons learned–from those two years when we put the Halls High track team on the map.