Four heroes of Jacksonville High School track team history gathered at the Tomato Bowl Friday to relieve moments of glory.
Shelley Cleaver, James Spivey, Wyndel Cummins and Roy Ross, all track super-stars from the early 1950s, reminisced about the days when track teams could sprint to and fro in the Tomato Bowl, which will soon see its 70th anniversary celebration.
“If I had taken just one more step on my lap,” Cummins began on arriving at the Tomato Bowl, “these suckers wouldn’t have beaten us by half a second.”
He, Pasco Parker, Fred Clements and Fred Haberle had, back in 1951, set a state record for the mile relay, Cummins said.
This was beaten by half a second the next year by Ross and Cleaver’s team to reach 3:29.9.
“They broke it by just a little bit and I haven’t forgiven them yet!” Cummins exclaimed, laughing.
Cummins and his family had driven into Jacksonville when the year the Tomato Bowl was completed and he said the style of the exterior impressed him.
Cleaver said the last district track meet at the Tomato Bowl was held in 1952 and added Jacksonville took home first, second and third in the 440 yard dash.
“I won the 880 in district,” he also said.
It was the first time Cleaver had seen Ross in years and Cleaver said he was grateful for the opportunity to get together with some old colleagues.
Jacksonville Independent School District Central Office employee Grace Traylor said the idea to get the track stars together stemmed from a video which had been found of the group running in a state meet.
“We realized they were still around,” Traylor said. “This was the only sports team which ever won a state title in Jacksonville ISD.”
Ross said the Tomato Bowl has changed a great deal since he competed on the field.
“You couldn’t run or work out there because they didn’t want to mess up the grass,” Ross said. “You could only play games.”
He also said it’s good for him to see some of the other members of the track team.
“They look good,” he said. “We might get out there and run again!”
Ross said back in the day he and the team enjoyed being able to defeat everyone and were quite competitive.
He added they received a great deal of support from the city and school and saw many fans.
“The local businesses were behind us all the way,” Ross said.
Spivey, a former teacher, principal and coach, said the chance to meet proved wonderful.
His father, Dilbert Spivey, was the time keeper when the Tomato Bowl was originally build in 1940
“It’s the golden memories of yesteryear , when we were athletes at old Jacksonville High School running track in the historic tomato bowl,” Spivey said. “It’s just a wonderful event for the Solid Rock Celebration coming up.”
This celebration will be for the Tomato Bowl and will happen later in the year.
“The Tomato Bowl will be well-known forever in Jacksonville’s memory,” Spivey added.