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July Hall Pass Newsletter

By Rick Strunk and Helen Ross, 07/27/21, 7:15AM EDT


You can learn about just some of the great Olympic athletes who have represented the USA...

July Hall Pass Newsletter

This month's Hall Pass Newsletter also has, appropriately enough for this time, an Olympic theme.  You can learn about just some of the great Olympic athletes who have represented the USA that are members of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, including one of our state's best track athletes ever.




     What kind of athlete was Kathy McMillan?

     Well, consider this. When she was a student at Hoke County High School, McMillan won the long jump at the 1976 North Carolina High School Athletic Association state meet with a record leap of 21 feet, 7 inches. It was her fourth straight title in the event.  

     And by the way, that long jump record still stands today, 45 years later.

     McMillan also set a National Federation of High Schools record when she jumped 22 feet, 3 inches at the 1976 Jack In The Box Invitational. That mark – which was more than two feet longer than any high school jumper at the time -- stood for 39 years and is still No. 2 nationally.

     Oh, and did we mention that McMillan went on to win the silver medal at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 – barely a month after she graduated from high school? 

     McMillan was in sixth place in Montreal until her fifth jump when she leapt 21 feet, 7 ¼ to finish second. She scratched on a jump of 22 feet, 4 ½ inches that actually could have given her the gold.

     Not bad for a teenager who didn’t even know what the Olympic Games were until Hoke County coach William Colston told her she had the talent to make the U.S. team.

    “But I had faith in what he was saying,” McMillan said when she was inducted into the North Carolina High School Track & Field Hall of Fame in January of last year, a member of the organization’s inaugural class.

     Unfortunately, McMillan didn’t have another chance to go for Olympic gold because the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. She made the team, though, and received one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals given to its members.

     McMillan did win gold at the Liberty Bell Classic, organized by U.S. Track and Field in the wake of the boycott. Athletes from 29 countries attended, and McMillan finished first in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 8 inches.

     McMillan also won gold at the 1979 and 1983 Pan-Am Games, as well as a trio of AAU titles. She also was part of a world record run in the 880-yard relay in 1978 and 440-yard relay team that produced American records indoors and out in 1980.

     McMillan went on to run track at Tennessee State. Her coach Ed Temple had high praise for McMillan when she was inducted into the Tennessee State Hall of Fame in 1981.

     “She is the most fierce competitor I have ever coached,” he said. “She thrives on pressure. The greater it is, the better she is. I have never seen an athlete with more determination.”

     And this is from a man who had coached 35 Olympians at that point, including the great Wilma Rudolph.

     McMillan was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. She is also member of the National High School Track & Field Hall of Fame and one of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s “100 to Remember” female athletes.



1968 double gold medal swimmer Steve Rerych

         Kathy McMillan is not the only member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame who competed with distinction in the Summer Olympics.  

         There are several members of the NCSHOF who made their marks in Olympic competition.

         Among them is Dave Sime, a 1967 inductee and one of the world’s premier sprinters while at Duke, who won a silver medal in the 100 in the 1960 Games in Rome.  Floyd “Chunk” Simmons, inducted in 1973, won silver medals in the grueling decathlon competition in both the 1948 and ’52 games.

         Joel Shankle, a 1993 inductee to the Hall, won the bronze in the 110-meter high hurdles in the 1956 Olympics. In swimming, Raleigh Sanderson high graduate David Fox earned a gold in 1996 in Atlanta as a member of the winning four by 100 freestyle relay team, and Steve Rerych (1993 inductee) won two golds in swimming as a member of relay teams in Mexico City in 1968.

         And that doesn’t even include a whole host of athletes who won golds as members of USA teams in various disciplines (Carla Overbeck, Michael Jordan, Phil Ford, Walt Bellamy and many others).

         Our state has a proud Olympic tradition!


       The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame was finally able to celebrate its 57th induction banquet,  which was originally scheduled for May of 2020 but postponed several times, like so many things, due to COVID.

       But there was great excitement as a tremendous class of individuals formally joined the NCSHOF and was welcomed enthusiastically.  The group included two posthumous inductees, Dennis Craddock and Dr. Charles Kernodle, Jr., along with Debbie Antonelli, Mack Brown, Mac Morris, Trot Nixon, Julius Peppers, Bobby Purcell, Judy Rose, Tim Stevens and Donnell Woolford.

     Congratulations to the newest class to join the Hall and we are certainly grateful to all those who attended, those who were involved in our virtual auction and all the other ways you can support the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame!