UT's cross country heritage celebrated

All those good times and pleasant memories of former University of Tennessee distance runners came together Saturday night at Calhoun's on the River.

Former coaches were there, including Stan Huntsman and George Watts. So were numerous other runners who put UT on the map in track and cross country.

It was a reunion celebrating UT's heritage of success in distance running — in particular the 40th anniversary of the Vols' 1972 NCAA cross country title.

Huntsman, inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004, coached the Vols to two NCAA national championships — the 1972 cross-country title and the 1974 outdoor track and field title.

"That was the biggest part of my life, I tell you," said Huntsman, who is retired and lives in Austin, Texas.

Those were some of the best years of their lives for many former Vols attending the reunion.

"We were just young guys in the '70s, just living the life," said Ron Addison, a member of both UT national championship teams. "We had it made. We were on scholarship, we trained, we went to class, we studied, and we just had a good time. We had no worries. All we had to do was run well. That was our main focus, and we had good coaches and good support."

Addison was recruited to UT from his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. He recalls road trips to meets, eating dinner with teammates and coaches, and other things that don't happen nowadays in college athletics.

"We'd go hitchhiking," Addison said. "We'd go to a cross-country meet or a track meet, and you only had a (team) bus, so you couldn't go anywhere. If we wanted to go someplace, we'd stick out our thumb and hitchhike. You can't do that anymore."

Huntsman hasn't forgotten the unity of his teams — and those of his predecessor, Chuck Rohe.

Rohe was UT's first track and field coach and won 15 consecutive SEC titles. Huntsman took over for Rohe in 1971.

"I spoke to the 'Ancients', which are the old (UT) track athletes, who were here in the '40s and '50s," Huntsman said. "The camaraderie that they had and the camaraderie that my teams had, and the teams Chuck Rohe had, a Tennessee camaraderie is next to none in track and field and cross country."

John Angel, former Farragut High School runner, originally was recruited by Rohe and his staff and ran under Huntsman.

Huntsman told Angel he wanted to field a team that could win an NCAA title. By his sophomore year at UT, Angel was a member of an NCAA national championship team.

Those are days that Angel cherishes.

"I don't suppose I've been a part of any group that is as cohesive as this group is," Angel said. "From year to year, we look for any opportunity to get together, and when we get together, it's like we haven't been apart."

Dave Link is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 1

trgclychip writes:

It is a beautiful thing.

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