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Big 7 Conference track boasts nine decades of history

Tanner Cook • Apr 24, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The Big 7 Conference track meet was supposed to be held on Friday at Science Hill, but due to the cancellation of spring sports by the TSSAA, the event will not happen this year.

It is the first time since its inception in 1929 that the boys meet will not take place. The girls meet began in 1974.

The following is a brief look back at nine decades’ worth of meets and the winningest athletes.

THE FIRST MEET

The original Big 5 meet was supposed to be held in Johnson City, but was moved to Kingsport due to travel conveniences. Dobyns-Bennett coach LeRoy Sprankle was the main driver behind the first meet, and the teams from Johnson City, Bristol, Erwin and Elizabethton were the competitors on April 20.

D-B unsurprisingly won the first meet with 72 points while Science Hill was second with 53.

Ervin Ledbetter, Holiday Smith and Nat Reasor each won two events that day to push D-B to the victory.

It sparked the first dynasty as D-B won the first five boys team titles and 16 of the first 17. Science Hill interrupted the streak with a win in 1934.

THE 1930s

Most titles: Tom Murrell, Dobyns-Bennett (10)

One of the first athletes with great ability, Murrell might have been one of the finest decathletes if the event were allowed in high school back in the early 1930s.

THE 1940s

Most titles: Bob Cifers, Dobyns-Bennett (12)

Cifers accumulated 12 conference individual titles over his career at D-B. He won everything from the 110-yard high hurdles to the pole vault to the shot.

He was a man of many talents and still holds the conference record for most individual titles.

THE 1950s

Most titles: Bob Taylor, Science Hill (7)

Hilltopper standout Taylor tops the list and followed in the footsteps of the late Ferrell Bowman, specializing in the hurdles. He also won the high jump three times.

Science Hill had a run in this decade which started in 1951, ending D-B’s long 16-year winning streak. Coaches Sid Smallwood and Bob “Snake” Evans combined to win seven titles for the ’Toppers.

THE 1960s

Most titles: Ronnie Palmer, Morristown East (7)

Morristown East was briefly a member of the Big 9 Conference, and Ronnie Palmer put on a show in 1964 and 1965.

In 1967, D-B coach Dan Crowe took over the program and went on to win 13 consecutive team titles.

THE 1970s

Most titles: Darwin Bond, Dobyns-Bennett (9); Vickie Turner, Science Hill and Ellen McCallister, Tennessee High (5)

No one touched Bond in the Big 9 Conference during his three years running for the Indians. He finished his career unbeaten at the conference meet competition.

In the first few years of the girls meet, two titans emerged as Turner dominated the sprints while McCallister swept the distance events, which were only the 880 and one mile at the time.

THE 1980s

Most titles: Bobby Hill, Dobyns-Bennett (8); Beth Wilson, Unicoi County (9)

Hill was a standout on the track and in the field for Tom Coughenour’s teams that were perennial powerhouses in the 1980s and could score in almost every area.

Helping Unicoi County win its only conference title in 1981 with the long- and high-jump titles, Wilson and Robin Ingle accounted for the majority of points that day.

THE 1990s

Most titles: Toby Patton, Science Hill (9); Angie Culbertson, Sullivan Central (10)

Unbeaten in the 100 and 200 for four consecutive years and even winning the 400 in 1992, Patton can lay his claim to fame as one of the best sprinters in conference history.

Culbertson helped strengthen distance running for Northeast Tennessee, becoming the first girl to win double-digit individual titles in her career.

THE 2000s

Most titles: Blake Ketron, Daniel Boone (8); Jasmine Redford, Science Hill and Allie Scalf, Science Hill (7)

Rarely do distance triples (800, 1,600 and 3,200) happen, but Boone’s Ketron pulled off the daunting task twice in 2004 and 2005 and almost did it again in 2006.

Redford and Scalf provided a formidable sprint and distance scoring combination for the Lady ’Toppers. Redford helped usher in a sprinting dynasty with the Bowers trio while Scalf helped along later stars like Molly Foster and Martha McCoy.

THE 2010s

Most titles: Adam Barnard, Daniel Boone and Bryce Barrett, Dobyns-Bennett (8); Jennifer Cannon, Tennessee High (13)

Barnard helped lead the Trailblazers to their only team title in 2015 with a distance triple. Barrett finished off his career for the Tribe as one of the most decorated sprinters ever.

Arguably the best female athlete to ever come through the conference, Cannon won four pentathlon titles and was dominant in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

Year Time/Mark Individual School EVENT School Individual Time/Mark Year
2012 12.17 Chrystal Derr Dobyns-Bennett 100 Dobyns-Bennett Darwin Bond 10.64 1970
1985 25.46 Mona Sensabaugh Dobyns-Bennett 200 Dobyns-Bennett Darwin Bond 21.84 1968
2006 57.45 Hannah Bowers Science Hill 400 Dobyns-Bennett Darwin Bond 48.74 1969
1986 2:14.74 Laura McSpadden Sullivan South 800 Sullivan East Chuck Brown 1:52.94 1977
2018 4:56.45 Sasha Neglia Dobyns-Bennett 1,600 Sullivan East Chuck Brown 4:13.24 1976
2019 10:49.11 Sasha Neglia Dobyns-Bennett 3,200 Science Hill Mark Brown 9:17.44 1971
1983 14.54 Tina Banks Tennessee High 100 hurdles (Girls)        
        110 hurdles (Boys) Tennessee High Scotty Harris 14.14 1984
2011 43.51 Jennifer Cannon Tennessee High 300 hurdles Volunteer Sam Barton 39.42 2012
2006 48.14   Science Hill 4x100 relay Dobyns-Bennett   42.58 2001
1982 1:46.54   Elizabethton 4x200 relay Dobyns-Bennett   1:29.54 1971
1982 4:05.74   Tennessee High 4x400 relay Tennessee High   3:24.88 2012
2015 9:49.67   Science Hill 4x800 relay Daniel Boone   8:04.91 2014
1984 43-6 Angie Barker Elizabethton Shot Put Dobyns-Bennett Hal Miller 56-7.5 1978
1984 135-9 Angie Barker Elizabethton Discus Dobyns-Bennett Hal Miller 177-2 1979
2012 18-6.5 Jennifer Cannon Tennessee High Long Jump Science Hill Chris Patton 22-7 2004
2013 38-1 Adriana Watkins Dobyns-Bennett Triple Jump Science Hill Leslie Love 46-7.25 1981
2017 5-8 Addisyn Rowe David Crockett High Jump Sullivan South Barry Scott 6-8 1987
2015 10-6 Kelina Strickland; Savannah Hirst Dobyns-Bennett; Science Hill Pole Vault Tennessee High Mike Newell 14-0 1982
2012 3,448 points Jennifer Cannon Tennessee High Pentathlon (Girls)        
        Decathlon (Boys) Dobyns-Bennett Gerald Sensabaugh 5,950 points 2001
Year No. School Individual RECORD Individual School No. Year
last in 2019 23 Dobyns-Bennett   Most team titles   Dobyns-Bennett 70 last in 2019
2015 241.5 Science Hill   Most team points (one meet)   Dobyns-Bennett 254 1996
last in 2012 13 Tennessee High Jennifer Cannon Most individual titles Bob Cifers Dobyns-Bennett 12 last in 1940
2012 5 Tennessee High Jennifer Cannon Most individual titles (one meet) Tom Murrell, Sr. Dobyns-Bennett 6 1931
4 different times (3 different coaches) 4 Dobyns-Bennett   Most consecutive team titles   Dobyns-Bennett 16 1935-50 (seven coaches)
last in 2019 10 Dobyns-Bennett Bob Bingham Most coaching wins Tom Coughenour Dobyns-Bennett 17 last in 2006
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