Dreams have come true before


Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist

At this week’s Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education meeting, board member Jerry Walker said he’d like to see the school erect some type of monument to its outstanding student-athletes, in particular its numerous track and field state champions.

Superintendent Jim Smith said he thought it was a great idea, and I could not agree more.

Maybe I’m a bit jaded since I was a track and field athlete at Hillsboro in the mid to late 1970s. But consider this: Hillsboro, by my count, has produced six student-athletes that have won seven individual state track and field championships. Four of them set state records in the process.

Hillsboro does not have a single state champion in any other sport.

Hillsboro finished as the team state runner-up in track and field more than a century ago.

No other Hillsboro athletic team can make that claim.

It all started in 1909, the second year Ohio ever held a state track and field championship. Hillsboro finished as state runner-up that year with 23 points, to Toledo Central’s 29.

As far as I can tell – and with help from former Hillsboro resident Chris Duckworth, executive editor and director of publications for the Columbus Museum of Art – two Hillsboro athletes competed in that state track meet 106 years ago – Ed Ayres and Harry Roads. Ayres won the pole vault that year with a leap of 10-1, which was a record at the time for both Ohio high schools and colleges. He also won the state high jump title, and finished well in the 100- and 200-yard sprints.

Roads competed in the hammer throw, shot put, and discus, setting a new state record in the hammer throw.

Yes, that was just the second time a state high school track and field meet had ever been held in Ohio, but Hillsboro was competing against all schools, regardless of size, in the state. It was the start of a tradition that has endured the test of time.

In 1974, Hillsboro’s Jim Buck set a Division II state record in the 880-yard run with a winning time of 1:54.1. The year before, he actually broke the existing state meet record with a time of 1:56.2 in the 880, but finished third to Tim Maloney of Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (1:55.9) and Bill McLaughlin of Blanchester (1:55.2).

By the way, Hillsboro’s Marc Fehring tied for fourth in the pole vault that year with a jump of 12-8. By coincidence, he tied Tom Meyer of Blanchester.

In 1980, Hillsboro’s Jon Cole set another Division II state record in the discus with a throw of 182-5.

Jon was one of my teammates the three previous track seasons, and for the record, two other of our teammates placed at the state meet in 1978. Barry Ames was fifth in the long jump with a leap of 20-11.5, and Gary Schraw was sixth in the high jump with a leap of 6-6.

In 1984, Stephanie Williams won another state title for Hillsboro with a toss of 136-5 in the discus.

In 1996, Hillsboro’s Monique Smith, just a freshman, won a state title in the shot put with a heave of 41-11.25. The next year she was state runner-up with a toss of 42-0.5. In 1998, she placed fifth at the state meet in the discus with a throw of 124-11. And in 1999, she was fifth in discus with a throw of 131-3 and fifth in the shot put with mark of 41-5.25.

In 2013, Hillsboro narrowly missed another finish atop the state meet podium. Jarrod Hart ran what is now called the 800-meter dash in a time of 1:54.11, identical to the time Buck ran 39 years earlier in the 880-yard run while setting a state record. But Hart finished runner-up to Versailles’ Sam Prakel’s time of 1:52.32. Prakel also won the 1,600 meters that year.

There have been other Hillsboro state meet placers over years, but they are too numerous to list.

Yet, in all those years Hillsboro never had an official track. The cinder track at the former school site, established around 1961, was just 360 yards long, about 80 yards short of regulation. And before that, Hillsboro’s track was a dirt one around what is now the practice football field.

Now a new era has dawned. This spring, Hillsboro dedicated a beautiful new track and field facility with a synthetic surface, and it begs the question of what the future could hold. Will the new track serve as a springboard for a new generation of state champions, or will it turn out that the lack of real track in bygone years only made Hillsboro students more determined to succeed?

It has often been suggested that too much emphasis is placed on athletics, from youth sports to professional. And there is no doubt some truth to that.

But as I was speaking to Hillsboro girls basketball coach JR Moberly recently about his late father Glenn’s recent induction into The Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame, I asked JR why his dad spent so much time as a teacher, coach, athletic director, and organizer of youth athletic programs. JR’s answer was this: “I think he used it as an extension of the classroom. It was the opportunity to teach life lessons you don’t get in a classroom. You learn to compete on the playing field and it carries over to the classroom.”

Walker told his fellow board members this week that he’d like to engrain the idea into Hillsboro athletes that they can accomplish anything they dream. He said a monument to former Hillsboro state champions would serve as a constant reminder of that. “I’d like to keep that in front of students to let them know that high levels of success are attainable through (what we have right here) at Hillsboro High School,” Walker said.

Some kids are born with the ability to compete in the classroom. Some kids aren’t. They need some other type of stimulus to drive them toward success, both in the classroom and in life. Sports often provides it.

What better way to urge future Hillsboro athletes to strive for their dreams than to remind them that dreams have come true before?

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

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