Guest Column: Easley as the Winner

Easley as the Winner: Team Took Sylvan Loving Cup - The Contest was Exciting

Guest column by Chris Ardis, Northwestern coach

The views of this column are those solely of the writer. Sources are referenced below - related to numbers in column copy.

The above headline appeared in the Columbia Record on May 9, 1910 following the first ever attempt at organizing a state high school track meet in South Carolina. History buffs will tell you that Clio High School won the first two state track championships, but what they might not know is that the state track meet actually began in 1910. 8

The following is a brief history of track in South Carolina and how the state championship track meet and the SCHSL were created.

Popularity of the sport had been growing for years with organized track meets taking place in the state since at least the early 1900s. The Y.M.C.A, an early sponsor of some of these meets, started an annual track meet against the University of South Carolina in 1904 which was contested for several years. 1 2 3

In 1907, the earliest high school meet I could find, the city of Greenville hosted a track meet between Easley, Westminster, Central and the Furman Fitting School. The success of this meet prompted officials to attempt to create a permanent association with Spartanburg and Anderson which continued to help grow the sport. 4 

"Before we get too far into the history, it is important to keep in mind that these early track meets looked somewhat different from the organized meets we know today. Running events were measured in yards and were often run on a temporary track in an open field marked with flags and chalk." - Chris Ardis

Before we get too far into the history, it is important to keep in mind that these early track meets looked somewhat different from the organized meets we know today. Running events were measured in yards and were often run on a temporary track in an open field marked with flags and chalk. Stopwatches only measured to the 1/5 of a second and it wasn't until 1916 that stopwatch technology advanced enough to measure to the 100th of a second. Track conditions were at the mercy of the weather as the competitors at the 1912 state track meet found out. Without the benefit of the all-weather tracks we have today, the afternoon finals were run in mud and slush due to steady afternoon rain. 5

Field events were largely similar to the ones we see today, with some exceptions. While the shot put and pole vault were contested among some of the early track meets, no longer do we have the standing broad jump or standing high jump. 1 2

The pole vault and high jump did not use mats for their landing areas, instead using pits of loose sand raked between attempts. This is similar to the long and triple jump today. Some events, such as the hammer throw, were deemed too dangerous for high school and some events, such as the potato race and the tug-of-war, were quickly phased out. 6 

Despite not having standardized events, popularity of track continued to grow until the Track Department of the Student Athletic Association at the University of South Carolina decided it was time to sponsor a state championship track meet. It was decided the first state championship track meet would be held on May 7, 1910 at Davis Field on the campus of the University of South Carolina. Each school was limited to two contestants per event, with trials, semi-finals and finals conducted in the track events. 7

The meet was to begin at noon with the prelims and semi-finals followed by a dinner break and an exhibition drill from Sumter high School's Military Squad. Contestants of these early meets actually stayed on the South Carolina campus and were treated to college life during the duration of their stay. 8

Sylvan Bros Jewelers in Columbia, who is still in business today, donated a silver loving cup for the team with the most points with contestants receiving either medals or ribbons for individual performances. 7 Only 10 events were contested including the 100 yard dash, 220 yard dash, 440 yard dash, 880 yard dash, 220 yard hurdles, pole vault, running high jump, running broad jump, shot put and hammer throw. Newspaper accounts indicate that a good time was had by all, but at the conclusion of the days events Easley High School was the victor, scoring 32 points to top Sumter's 19 points. Brunson High School wasn't far behind in third with 13 points. 8

 1911 saw the return of the state track meet, again held at Davis Field in Columbia. This time it was Westminster High School on top (again winning a Sylvan loving cup) with 30 points ahead of the previous year's winner Easley who had 27 points. Yorkville was a distant third with 12 points.

Westminster High School won with 30 points, Easley was second with 27 and Yorkville was third with 12. 9

Folger of Easley was the individual athlete of the day, scoring 20 of his teams 27 points and becoming the first ever four event winner by winning the PV, Broad Jump, High Jump and Shot Put.

The following year, 1912, teams were charged $.50 per athlete and spectators were charged $.25 for admission. That year, Westminster became the first repeat winner by besting Yorkville 21-13, with the Furman Fitting School finishing third with 11 points. 10 

The first three years, the state championship track meet was run under the supervision of the high school athletics committee at the University of South Carolina and assisted by the track department of the Student Athletic Association. Following the 1911 state meet a plan was developed to create a permanent High School Athletic Association which went into effect after the 1912 state track meet. In 1913, the State Track Meet was, for the first time, under the supervision of a permanent South Carolina High School Athletic Association. It wasn't until 1921 that the High School League was formed with the purpose of governing all inter-high school athletics. 

The new High School League was the result of the merger of several organizations, including the High School Debating League. This merger gave the newly formed High School League control over the state track meet, championship games in football, basketball and baseball and the state oratorical and girl's expression contests. 11 So, while Clio High School won the first two state championships under the supervision of the High School Athletic Association, the state track meet actually predates the association by three years. Team and individual results from the 1910 state track meet are listed below. 

1910 State Meet Results 8

Team scores:

Easley: 32

Sumter: 19

Brunson: 13

Columbia: 9

Porter's 8


St. Matthews: 1

Latta: 1

Event results: 

220-Yard Dash: 1st Gray, Brunson 25 2-5 seconds, 2nd Nigels, Sumter, 3rd Miley Brunson

100-yard Dash: 1st Nigels, Sumter 11 seconds, 2nd Hester, Easley, 3rd Monckton, Columbia

220-yard Hurdles: 1st Carry, Porter's 30 seconds, 2nd Mixson, Brunson, 3rd Wannamaker, St. Matthews

½ Mile: 1st Harth, Columbia 2:20 1-5 seconds, 2nd Burch, Darlington, 3rd Watson, Latta

High Jump: 1st Fogler, Easley 5-3, 2nd Hiott, Easley, 3rd Davis, Sumter

Shot Put: 1st Burns, Sumter 36-7, 2nd Avinger, Porter's, 3rd Wyatt, Easley

Pole Vault: 1st Fogler, Easley 8-11, 2nd Hester, Easley, 3rd Kollock, Darlington

Running Broad Jump: 1st Fogler, Easley 18-6, 2nd Hester, Easley, 3rd Mixson, Brunson

440-yard Dash: 1st Hester, Easley 59 4-5 seconds, 2nd Harth, Columbia, 3rd Mixson, Easley

Hammer Throw: 1st Burns, Sumter 105-3, 2nd Burth, Darlington, 3rd Mixson, Easley

Schools competing at the 1910 State Meet 8

St. Matthews, Charleston, Darlington, Sumter, Cross Archer, Brunson, Jonesville, Latta, Shandon, Columbia, Sumerton, Easley and Porter Military Academy.

Guest column sources listed in order below

  1. 1 - "With the Track Athletes" The State, April 7, 1904.

  2. 2 - "Carolina Athletes Win the Sylvan Cup" The State, April 15, 1905.

  3. 3 - "Carolina and Y.M.C.A Track Meet Today" The State, May 16, 1906.

  4. 4 - "Track Meet" Keowee Courier, November 13, 1907.

  5. 5 - "State Track Meet" Yorkville Enquirer, May 7, 1912.

  6. 6- "High School Boys Compete Here" The State, May 2, 1912.

  7. 7 - "School Athletes to Compete Here" The State, April 13, 1910.

  8. 8 - "Easley was the Winner" The Columbia Record, May 9, 1910.

  9. 9 - "State High School Meet" Yorkville Enquirer, May 2, 1911.

  10. 10 - "State Track Meet Here Tomorrow" The State, May 3, 1912.

  11. 11 - "League Formed by Hi Schools" The Columbia Record, February 12, 1921.