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Moody remains fixture in local track, cross country

Tanner Cook • May 12, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Nobody has more fun doing a job than former Daniel Boone cross country and track and field coach George Moody.

“Everything I’ve ever done that has something to do with cross country or track, I’ve had a blast,” he said.

Moody began teaching in 1970 at West View before moving to Daniel Boone in 1976.

“I taught health over at the high school and when the freshman girls track coaching position for cross country came open, I took it,” he said. “I had the best job in the world. I couldn’t believe they were paying me to run with the kids. That’s really how I became a runner.”

Now heavily involved with cross country and track for 44 years, Moody took over for legendary Boone coach Carl Winkle in 1991.

“Coach Winkle was like a father figure to me,” Moody said. “He had already established a really good program and I was the girls’ head coach.

“I’m probably one of the very few people that has seen all three of the Boone boys cross country state championships. The girls qualified the same year in 1981 when the boys won.”

Moody recalls the 1998 team that won the Class A-AA title well.

“We had won the Appalachian Athletic Conference and then the region. At Percy Warner, we placed four in the top 14 and I kept looking around for that fifth runner,” he said. “He came in, I think, 42nd or something and that was enough for us to win it. I remember (Dobyns-Bennett coach) Tom Coughenour came up to me afterwards and said that we had the best team there, even if we were A-AA. That team of Brinson Milhorn, Sean Akers, Chad Joyce, Daniel Berry, Aaron Gryder, Josh McGlothlin and Alex Wolf was a great bunch of boys.

“For this country boy from Fall Branch, winning that title was like a dream come true.”

Moody retired from coaching in 2006, but track fans and runners past and present know him as the public address announcer at Boone and D-B as well as one of the finish line judges.

“I was the regional director for many years and about a year after I gave it up, Len (Jeffers) asked me to come back and help,” Moody said. “I like to brag on every kid. Someone is going to win the race, but I like to give encouragement to everyone that crosses the finish line.”

Jeffers took over for Moody during the 2006 cross country season and has since built the Trailblazers into a powerhouse program year in and year out. Moody believes he is one of the best.

“In my opinion, Len Jeffers is the best cross country coach in the state of Tennessee and one of the best in the South,” Moody said. “I’m glad he took it from me. There’s no looking back over my shoulder.”

The Trailblazer course will always hold a special place in Moody’s heart. Even though it has undergone some minor changes over the years, Winkle’s course has remained one of the staples of Northeast Tennessee cross country, hosting both the Trailblazer Invitational and Region 1 championships for nearly 50 years.

“It’s a killer course,” Moody noted. “You knew the hill was there because you could see it. The unique thing about the course is that it’s all on grass. Some courses have some blacktop or gravel that you have to run over, but this one is different. It’s also unique because the agriculture kids could have their animals out like the cow or the goats along the backside of the course and the blackberry bushes could be in bloom going along the fence.

“It’s changed a little bit because of the road and the (Gray Fossil Site), but it has remained largely the same.”

In addition to being a finish line judge, Moody is a fixture at the indoor track meets at East Tennessee State, mostly helping out with the high jump for the past 10 years.

“I used to work with the throwing events and be a lane judge, but after a few days of doing that, your hamstrings get worn out,” he said. “They let me pick up the high jump bar now, which is much lighter and easier on my back.”

Moody certainly has a lot of memories from being a part of the local track and field scene for almost a half-century. But he still can’t pick a favorite moment.

“That 1998 team is way up there, but I loved it when the kids really bought into running,” he said.

“I loved seeing Boone runners go on and put on those college jerseys. I remember watching Jason Freeman (at Carson-Newman) run and win the SAC cross country meet down at Panther Creek one time and get freshman of the year. Another one that stood out was Brack Salyers running for Mars Hill and then walking on at Tennessee. When the SEC championships were down at the Maryville golf course one year, Brock’s finish as the fifth man later helped UT get to nationals that year.

“I did it my way and I really did have a lot of fun when I did it,” Moody added.

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