My varied sports skills allowed me to play football at Oak Grove for Coach “Birdman” Bigham, basketball in the YMCA youth league as well as the local church league at North Cleveland Church of God in my teen years, take lessons from newly retired Lee University tennis coach Tony Cavett and, of course, my diamond legendary prowess on the local softball fields starting with playing for Buena Vista Baptist as a young teen, before moving on to teams at Keith Street and Spring Place COGOPs.
Under the category of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” one of my brief sports ventures was as a part of the Oak Grove track and field team. I know you are stereotyping me in your mind as a shot-putter or discus thrower, but I actually ran the 220-yard (yes that was before the metric system took over) dash, and get this — I was a high jumper. Stop laughing; it’s true.
While the track and field teams weren’t as organized as football and basketball, with daily practices over the course of several months, each county elementary school would put together a team for a once-a-year meet at Cleveland High School’s track.
Desiring to show off my athletic skills to impress the girls, I wanted to be a part of what was going on.
I remember it as being a huge group of kids with two or three of the school’s coaches in a week’s worth of half-organized chaos trying to decide who was going to get to participate in what events.
They would let you sign up for whatever events you wanted to try out for and then have races and competitions to see who was the best at what, to organize who would represent the school at the county meet.
I don’t remember what all I signed up for, but I do remember somehow being good enough at the 220 and the high jump to get to wear the green-and-white Falcons T-shirt to represent my school in those events.
If it had been like things are today I would have a couple of “participation” ribbons to show for my efforts, but I don’t have anything to back up my claim because I didn’t finish in the Top 3 in either event, obviously scaring me for life and causing me to turn my back on participating in the sport for the remainder of my life.
However, for a brief week during my elementary days, I had hopes and aspirations of taking the gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Of course, my NFL, NBA, Wimbledon and professional softball career with the “King and His Court” didn’t pan out either.
I do want to offer my congratulations to the local athletes who qualified for this year’s state meet. Regardless of what place they finished in, they are among the state’s best by having qualified to make the trip to Murfreesboro.
We had several earn a spot on the podium and receive medals, including state runners-up Tyler Davis (200-meter dash), Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad (long jump, plus a third in the triple jump and a fourth in the pentathlon) as well as the Cleveland High 4x100-relay team of Will Hilliker, Stephen Cannon, TJ Parker and Davis.
Bradley Central’s Harold Smith and Walker Valley’s Rachel Lawhorn brought home third place medals in the 800-meter run and the discus respectively (read Saralyn’s story in this section for full details).
Wait a minute! Did you notice that second name on the Raider relay team that just missed a state championship by a half-second — Cannon?
The son of proud parents Andy and Cindy Cannon, Stephen is my kinfolk, even though I don’t know that I’d recognize him if I saw him.
His dad, Andy, and I have the unique distinction of both being the sons of Gene Cannon, but we’re not brothers. My dad and Andy’s grandfather were first cousins, so that made the “other” Gene Cannon, my dad’s first cousin removed.
While it hurts my head to try to figure out the “official” number of which cousins we are, it’s obvious a strong track gene runs in our family (notice the two puns in that sentence).
If I remember from his Facebook posts, “cousin” Andy ran in his first marathon earlier this year, with his 72-year-old mother, Alta, joining him for the run up the final hill of the 26.2 mile race. He finished the Music City Marathon in a time of 5 hours, 28 minutes and 36 seconds or the equivalent of how long it takes me to drive that distance through Nashville when I go to the Titans games.
As we wrap up another high school sports year, let me again say how proud I am to be able to cover such dedicated young men and women, who excel not only in their field of play but in the classroom and in life.
While I’m proud to see some like the “Twin Towers” and many others go to the next level, I’m also excited about the new student athletes that are just dawning on the local horizon.