Written by Chris Floyd
Four influential coaches and a trio of tremendous athletes from the 1970s are the latest inductees into the Parry McCluer Athletic Hall of Fame.
From the coaching ranks, the Hall will honor Joe Downing, Charlie Kurtz and Gene Mehaffey, who were all successful in the late 1950s and early 1960s at Parry McCluer, as well as Kerry Camper, who was best known for his leadership of the junior varsity football program. Joining the coaches will be athletes Kevin Cropp, Timmy Jones and Leslie Secrist.
Downing came to Parry McCluer in the fall of 1958 and immediately had an impact on the football program, leading the Blues to a 26-1 record and two district titles in his three years. He also started the track program at the school and worked with Kurtz on the development of recreational fields in Buena Vista. After leaving PMHS, Downing enjoyed a successful career coaching at Jefferson High School and The College of William and Mary. He returned to Buena Vista after his retirement and was an active member of the Lions Club and other public service organizations.
Mehaffey coached four years at Parry McCluer, leading the basketball team to an 80-17 record from 1958-1962. Before the Virginia High School League classification system, he coached the Blues to the state finals in both 1959 and 1962. Mehaffey served as an assistant coach at the University of Virginia for five years before taking the head coaching job at Carson Newman College, where he averaged 22 wins a year, including a 31-win season in 1971. In 1979, he became the head coach at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he coached for 20 years, winning the Division III national championship in 1988. Mehaffey finished his college coaching career with 525 victories.
Kurtz served as the PM head football coach from 1955 to 1957 before being called to duty in the U.S. Army. Upon his return, he worked as an assistant to Downing for three years before taking over the head coaching duties in 1962 and leading the Blues to an 8-1 mark. Kurtz was the assistant principal at Parry McCluer in 1963 before becoming the principal at R.E. Lee High School in Stauntion. Kurtz was elected to the Bridgewater College Hall of Fame in 1997 and the VHSL Hall of Fame in 1998.
As the junior varsity football coach, Camper led the Blues to a 119-19 record, including several undefeated seasons. He was also a track coach for many years, leading Parry McCluer to the Group A state indoor title in 1980. A teacher and coach at PMHS for 30 years, he continues to serve the school today, acting as timer and scorekeeper for all football, wrestling and basketball home games.
Cropp is one of the most decorated track athletes in PMHS history. In the mile run, he was a four-time district champion, a four-time regional champion and a four-time state champion on both the indoor and outdoor ovals, and in 1973, he ran the fifth fastest indoor mile in the nation. Cropp also won four district titles in the 880 run to go along with three region championships and four state titles. Cropp finished his PMHS career with 18 school records and at least six state records. The 1974 Parry McCluer athlete of the year, Cropp graduated from William & Mary, winning the Southern Conference’s 1,500-meter indoor title in 1976 and the outdoor title with a record time in the same event in 1977. Cropp retired from the U.S. Navy in 2005 after 26 years of service.
A three-year letter winner on the football team, Jones finished his career with school records in carries (560), yards (4,529) and points (372), averaging an astounding 8.0 yards per carry for his career. He was a first-team All-Pioneer District and All-Region C selection in both 1978 and 1979. After rushing for 2,321 yards during his senior season, Jones was named first team All-Group A and earned a spot on the UPI All-State team that encompassed all three classifications. Jones led the Blues to the state championship in 1979, rushing for 266 yards, then a state record, and scoring all 20 points in the victory over W&L-Montross. Jones also helped lead the indoor track team to a state title in 1980, running a leg on the first-place 1,600 relay team.
Secrist was a star in both basketball and softball, but it was on the court that she made her mark. A four-time All-Pioneer District selection, she still holds the school record for career points with 1,534. She dished out 266 assists in her career and was named the team Most Valuable Player three times. With 46 points in two games, Secrist helped lead the Blues to the Region C championship in 1978, and in 1979, her team went 14-0 against district foes to claim the league title.
The newest inductees will be introduced at the PMHS football game Friday, Sept. 19, with the induction ceremony slated for Saturday, Sept. 20.