Several hundred students from five middle schools competed in the first-ever Ben Martin Middle School Invitational track meet in Oak Ridge on Thursday.
The meet was named after Ben Martin, a legendary Sports Hall of Fame coach who won seven state championships as track coach at Oak Ridge High School. Thursday’s meet was at Ben Martin Track at the high school.
Martin was the first ORHS track and football coach, and he won championships in both sports and began the entire athletic program at the high school, ORHS Cross Country Coach Allen Etheridge said.
“I talked with longtime Oak Ridge coach Winston Russell today, who told me that he remembered coach Martin as the guy who was always there, the guy who would coach anyone at any time,” Etheridge said Monday. “(Martin) was an assistant football coach and was head basketball coach.”
Athletes from Cherokee, Jefferson, Karns, Rhea County, and Robertsville middle schools competed in Thursday’s meet, which included events ranging from relays and hurdles to long jumps and high jumps.
“It’s a good way to get kids involved,” said Phil Cox, principal at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, which has about 100 students in its track and field program. The activities help keep children active and healthy, Cox said.
Bruce Lay, principal at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, said children become better athletes throughout the track and field season, which helps their self-improvement. He said RMS has about 77 students in its track and field program.
Thursday’s meet was hosted by the Oak Ridge High School cross country teams, which raised money for a new timing system used at the competition. It included two heats in every event, and a JV 100 and JV 1,600.
“This is a great step for ORHS middle school track,” Etheridge said.
The Oak Ridge teams will host another meet on Thursday, April 10. It’s called the Jim McNamee Middle School Invitational.
“We named these meets after two legendary Sports Hall of Fame coaches because they are important to the history of athletics at Oak Ridge High School,” Etheridge said.
Coach Mac won eight state titles in cross country and one in girls track before retiring in 2004.
“Jim McNamee is the most competitive person I’ve ever met,” Etheridge said. “Hated losing and loved winning. Hated whining and weakness, really coached runners to be tough.”
Etheridge said there could be about eight teams competing in the Jim McNamee Middle School Invitational next week.
More information will be added as it becomes available.