Frank Giardina: Track and field greats of the past

You may have seen the story earlier this week in the Gazette where some of the former great high school track athletes of the past are going to come back and be involved in this year’s state meet. What a great idea.

With that in mind, here are some great track and field names from the past that I am thinking about on this Sunday.

n Jim Canterbury: An incredible distance runner from Oak Hill, Canterbury went on to an outstanding career at Marshall and is in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame. He won 43 consecutive cross country meets at Marshall before finishing second in a meet at Kentucky, where the team arrived late and Canterbury did not have time to warm up properly. In his career, he beat many runners who ran on the 1952 and 1956 U.S. Olympic team, but he could not get to the trials due to a lack of sponsorship dollars. He went on to a distinguished career as a teacher and administrator in the Kanawha County school system

n Ron McCartney: McCartney was a multi-sports athlete at Stonewall Jackson from 1970-72. He was an outstanding discus thrower in track and field and a great football player who played at Tennessee in the mid-1970s. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams and played three seasons as a linebacker in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.

n Wilson and Steve Smith: The brothers were outstanding distance runners at the old Huntington High Pony Express. Wilson won the state distance events in the 1960s and went on to run with Marty Liquori at Villanova. Steve was an outstanding distance runner for Huntington in 1971.

n St. Albans and Stonewall Jackson dominance: Kanawha County used to dominate track and field, with Stonewall Jackson winning an incredible eight straight AAA state boys titles from 1948-55. St. Albans had a great run in the late 1960s and early ’70s, winning AAA titles in 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1976.

n Mike Tyson and Tom Reid: You almost have to link these two great sprinters together. When Tyson from Charleston and Reid from Beckley went head to head in 1971 and 1972, the crowd would hush and all eyes would be on the 100- and 220-yard dashes on the old Laidley Field cinder track. When they came around the turn in the 220, an audible “wooooooo” would go up from the spectators in the stadium. Reid was a classic sprinter, long, lean and fast. Tyson had world-class sprinter speed in a football running back’s body.

n Chuck Wright: One of the great track and field throwers in our state’s history, Wright competed for Stonewall Jackson from 1968-70. His throw of 57 feet, 7 inches in 1970 was a state shot put record at the time. He was one of the first to bring attention to the throwing events at the state meet, and when he was throwing the other competitors stopped to watch. He was also a football star as a lineman for Bill Jarrett.

Reach Frank Giardina at

More News