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Past stars back in town for 100th track meet

By Rick Ryan, Assistant Sports Editor

For the second time in a little over a year, the SSAC is throwing a party for a sport celebrating its 100th state championship event.

In March of 2013, it was the 100th boys basketball state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center. This time, it’s track and field, and the party takes place May 23-24 at the University of Charleston Stadium’s Laidley Field.

The SSAC is welcoming back several record-holders from the sport when state meet events were run in yards instead of meters (prior to 1980), and those luminaries will be present all weekend to hand out awards to this year’s state champions (see adjoining list).

“We hope that this adds something special to the meet,’’ said Butch Powell, assistant executive director for the SSAC. “We want to remember these people for their past performances. They’ve had outstanding achievements not only at the high school level, but later on in life.’’

Among the most recognizable names are two track and football standouts — former Monongah flash Kerry Marbury and the pride of Ansted, Tom Pridemore.

Marbury, who set a mark of 21.9 seconds in the 220-yard dash in the 1970 Class AA state meet, went on to play football at West Virginia and in the CFL. He is fondly remembered for returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Penn State in 1972.

Pridemore, who set a record in the 120-yard high hurdles in the 1974 Class AA state meet, also played football at WVU and spent eight seasons as an NFL defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons. Like Marbury, he also had a memorable return against mighty Penn State, bringing back an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in 1977.

Efforts were made to include an additional fan favorite, former Jefferson sprinter James Jett, who also played football for WVU and in the NFL, but Powell said SSAC officials weren’t able to contact Jett. In the 1989 AAA state meet, Jett set records of 21.39 seconds in the 200-meter dash and 47.74 in the 400 — marks that still stand today.

The record-holders for events run in yards will be among the first group recognized during the state meet at 3:25 p.m. on Friday, May 23. The state meet is set to stage a special opening ceremony at 2 p.m. that day.

Another attraction will be a memorabilia room set up by Laidley Field manager Doug Carte that will display old pictures and programs from past state meets, as well as a continuously running power point presentation featuring outstanding performances of past championships.

“We won’t be able to identify a lot of those people [in the pictures and programs],’’ Powell said, “but as people come in, they’ll recognize some of the athletes and officials and we’ll try to remember those people who have performed and coached and officiated.’’

Powell said there will also be a table set up next to the finish line results shack where past state meet record holders (yards or meters), state championship coaches, individual high-point winners or past state meet directors, starters and officials can register their names to be included as part of the celebration.

“It’s similar to what we did at the 100th state basketball tournament,’’ Powell said.

Three men, all with 50-plus years of working at the state meet in various capacities, will also be recognized — Johnny Barker, Don Harmon and Bill Jones.

The SSAC tinkered with the idea of publishing a separate program to commemorate the 100th state meet, but settled on a special 24-page supplement to the existing program that will sell for $5.

The special section will list every state champion head coach dating back to 1914 and feature pictures of coaches with four or more state titles, as well as listing the names of all starters, referees and meet directors.

Interestingly, this will be both the 100th state meet and the 100th anniversary of the first state meet, since the 1917 meet was canceled as a result of World War II.

The first state meet, coordinated by Charleston High School coach Rocco J. Gorman, consisted of 12 schools from around West Virginia and was held as Exhibition Park in Charleston.

Besides Laidley Field, the state meet has also been held at Watt Powell Park (Charleston) as well as West Virginia University (Morgantown) and Marshall University (Huntington).

The girls state track meet began in 1975.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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