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Lost Tracks of Georgia: Athens Speedway

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It’s been 30 years since race cars have roared around Athens Speedway. Looking around the place, you can tell. 

A mature patch of woods now covers the old race track property off Jimmy Daniel Road in Athens. If you didn’t know there was a ⅜-mile dirt track and long stretch of concrete grandstands sitting in the shadows of the pines off the two-lane road, you wouldn’t even think to look. 

A legacy of dominance

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Photo courtesy of Score ATL

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Parkview High School’s first state championship.

Buster Faulkner started under center for that title-winning team. 

Of course, at the end of the season.

Faulkner, who earned time at quarterback as a sophomore early in the season, was given the starting job after coaches decided to move junior quarterback Jeremy Muyres to wide receiver.

They made the right move.

The 1997 team captured the title, but Faulkner says those Panther teams from a few years earlier were the breakthrough for a Gwinnett County dynasty that would stretch out across  the next decade.

A different shade of blue: The Trail Creek spill

Photo courtesy of Johnathan McGinty

There are a lot of blues in this world, even in the literal sense.

There’s the soft blue of a clear morning sky or the rich blues of the deep ocean. The navy blues that make up the marks of so many sports teams, as well as the paler blues prevalent in spring flowers.

On July 29, 2010, a different shade of blue flowed through Trail Creek in Athens. 

It was bright. It was harsh.

This blue contrasted against the greenery of summer, lush leaves filling out the plentiful trees that lined the waters. Gone was the murky, muddy mixture that punctuates creeks and rivers throughout the South. In its place was a near-neon blue snaking its way through a network of tributaries and leaving streaks of artificial color in its wake.

The legend who said ‘no’ to the Celtics

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Photo of Jack and Bill Butcher courtesy of the Butcher Family

By David Hudson with Joe VanHoose

In the past 64 years, three outstanding southern Indiana High School Basketball stars have been drafted by the NBA’s Boston Celtics.  

Most recently, Romeo Langford, who starred at New Albany High School and played a one-and-done season at Indiana University, was drafted in 2019. The Celtics signed Romeo to a four-year contract worth $16.5 million. 

Of course, most everyone knows about Larry Bird, the legend, who signed with the Celtics for $3.25 million after his Indiana State Sycamores finished runner-up to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the 1979 NCAA Final Four. Bird played his high school ball at Springs Valley High School in French Lick. 

And then there’s Jack Butcher.

More than a worthy nominee

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Photo courtesy of Matt Boedy

This is a guest essay from Matt Boedy, a professor of English at the University of North Georgia who teaches in its First Year Composition program, as well as upper-level courses in writing and publication. He is the author of Murder Creek, chronicling the story of the last man to die in Georgia’s electric chairand Speaking of Evil, an examination of the question of why God would allow for the existence of evil through a rhetorical prism.

Earlier this year, BTT published a piece on the people who thought it worthwhile to start a Georgia Hall of Fame dedicated to football. 

You may not know this, but the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon has inducted a few officials in its history. There are 11 officials currently in the Hall. 

I nominated another last year, my father. 

For as long as I can remember – and I am 43 years old – my father has been a sports official. Baseball, basketball, and eventually he took up football. He has officiated at every level of sports from middle school to college. He toured this state for decades blowing whistles, taking balls off the mask, and yes, making a few mistakes. 

‘Movie magic’: Luther Williams Field reborn

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Photo courtesy of maconga.org

Most days of the Macon Bacon’s home games, Luther Williams Field plays host to 3,200 fans in the ballpark. On other days, 100-250 people enter the gates. 

It’s not because of weather or poor play – it’s just film crews setting up to shoot in one of the nation’s oldest ballparks.

First opened in 1929, Luther Williams Field, named for a former mayor of Macon, has been home to many minor league and amature teams and is full of history. It is also the perfect locale for filmmakers who need a period ballpark backdrop – playing a part in the large Macon film scene and growing Georgia movie market.

Building a dynasty

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Photo courtesy of Lindenwood University

Tyler Peach is a Laker.

Not one of the Los Angeles variety, per se, but rather an Allendale, Michigan one.

He’s also a part of the most storied – and successful – college dodgeball program in the country. The Grand Valley State University dodgeball team has captured 11 of 16 national titles since the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association was founded in 2005.

When you think of dynasties in college sports, most tend to think of the modern Alabama football teams or 1990s Tennessee women’s basketball or “The U” back in the day.

But there are several non-traditional programs continuing this type of dominance today. GVSU recently captured its 11th national title this year after a 20-2 season. Peach, a former president and now co-captain of the team, is pleased to be a part of history.

“It’s cool to see we’ve been able to keep up with past years and continue to compete and win over such a long period of time,” Peach said. “Just to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.” 

Kenneth Nichols knows where he’s going

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Photo courtesy of the Nichols family

Story by Dave Hudson and Joe VanHoose

Kenneth Nichols still has the helmet with the scrape. 

The scrape starts above the visor on the left side and digs through the dark blue base color, widening as it stops just past a design of a gold torch – the same torch you see on the Indiana State Flag. 

Nichols is a native Hoosier, and like many Indiana boys he grew up dreaming about becoming a racecar driver. On February 6, 1999, he nearly died living out that dream.

‘That day was different’

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Photo courtesy of NCAA.com

In the 1990s and 2000s, the University of Georgia established itself as the most dominant force in college gymnastics. The Gym Dogs have tallied the most team and individual national championships in NCAA history, producing a litany of All-Americans and Olympians throughout their 30-plus year run of success.

One of key contributors during the early days of that run was Karin Lichey-Usry, a heralded gymnast who was part of two national championship teams in the late 1990s. During her freshman season of 1995-1996, Lichey-Usry achieved what no other gymnast had done before – registering four perfect scores of 10 in a single competition. 

Passing the time, playing ball

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Ehlers

This series went longer than seven.

In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, our household was out of options.

No live sports. This led to us watching the reruns of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, some of the more interesting programming Fox offered at the time. An active family of two teachers and three students, we were just sitting around in the middle of quarantine.

Until Major League Wiffle Ball was born.