Unlikely junior high champions grew up to be accomplished adults

Like Mercury, they sped down the cinder-topped lanes with wings on their heels.

Fleeing to the finish line, they sprinted and leaped, in tank tops and shorts and with cleats on their feet, amazing the crowds with their speed and agility. Some flew through the air off the end of a vaulter’s pole, or cleared hurdles, or stretched their muscles to hurl the shot. Whichever event applied, these schoolboy tracksters pushed their bodies to the max.

And most of them didn’t even shave yet.

In spring 1962, a youthful group of maroon and gold-clad youngsters from Oak Cliff captured the Dallas Independent School District’s junior high city track championship. Yes, the boys of Boude Storey took it all!

The track team consisted of eligible eighth- and ninth-graders, boys that understood the goal and what it would take to accomplish it. Their coach, Bill Hitt, pulled no punches: It would be difficult. But the young athletes made the decision to do what was required to be the best.

And it worked.

Not only did they earn the championship, but the boys learned lessons along the way — lessons about respect, courtesy, friendship, teamwork and honor. Lessons they carried with them into adulthood.

After junior high, the team members didn’t all move on together. Some had parents who moved, while the ever-changing school boundary lines caused the separation for others, dispersing the athletes between South Oak Cliff, Adamson and Kimball high schools.

Fast forward to 2010.

On Saturday, Sept. 4, 11 members of the Boude Storey championship team met for a reunion at the Dallas Doubletree Inn — the first time the group had reassembled in almost 50 years. Now in their early 60s, the men aren’t nearly as fleet of foot as when they were young, but the group still looked amazingly like a bunch of ex-athletes, and their coach still appeared proud. Yes, their former leader, Coach Bill Hitt, was there — not only for the reunion, but also for his surprise from the “boys”: a cake and accompanying song to celebrate his 80th birthday.

“To a man, the most influential teacher/coach in their lives, [was] Coach Bill Hitt,” says Gerald Jones, event host and organizer.
Former teammates in attendance were Jones, Lonnie Speck, Jackie Allen, Charles Moses, Dee Fletcher, Jay Kimbrough, Charles Ledbetter, Sammy Maddox, Jerry Peters, Tommy Sorrell and Mike Wall. From California, Jay Philbrick called in to wish Coach Hitt a happy birthday.

In 1965, Maddox won the Texas 4A state championship in high hurdles, while Speck took the same in broad jump and Mike Jenkins in high jump — Maddox for Kimball; Speck and Jenkins for South Oak Cliff (4A, at that time, being the largest division in Texas UIL sports). Also running for Kimball in ‘65, Fletcher and Philbrick had the third fastest time in the nation in the mile relay.

In his May 1965 sports column “Brawn Patrol”, Jim Woodruff of the Dallas Times Herald wrote: “Dallas schoolboys who worked under Coach Bill Hitt at Storey Junior High amassed 40 points in the state track meet this year. That would have been enough to take the team crown had all of them been on the same team.”

After their different graduations, Maddox, Speck, Fletcher and Peters all participated in Dallas Baptist College track, where Speck was third nationally in junior college broad jump. Peters was a junior college all-American and set the national junior college 220-meter record in ’67 and the 400-meter relay record in ’68, then ran two years for Southern Methodist University.

Before transferring to Dallas Baptist his sophomore year, Fletcher, at Howard County (Arkansas) Junior College, was on the 1967 National Junior College Championship Team — running on both the winning sprint and mile relay teams. Jenkins played four years of basketball for Austin College where he was an NAIA All-American. Later he was a player/coach for the 1975 All-Navy National Championship basketball team. Allen played football first for Baylor University, then professionally for the Raiders, Bills and Eagles. Many of the other Storey “boys” went on to successful business, financial and medical careers.

Quite an impressive slew of accomplishments for a small group of middle-class, junior high kids from Oak Cliff.

“Boude Storey was a great,” Peters reminisces, “and Coach Hitt, Coach Donaldson, and Principal C. C. Jamison knew how to teach young men how to grow into great adults. I wish my sons had the same honor of attending Boude Storey that I was allowed to experience.”

Describing how Coach Hitt and the others taught the boys about honor, and how Peters had carried that principle into his own life, he reflects on another lesson he learned in junior high: “Victory and winning have a price,” he continued. “We were taught to pay the price.”