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Elmer Ball: A leader on the field and in the classroom

Former Oxford Coach Elmer Ball is one of 10 great Wildcats inducted into the new OHS Hall of Fame. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2010 - Ask anyone in the Athletic Department at Oxford High School or the community who the most successful track and field and cross country coach in Oxford history, and one name will continually come up.

Elmer Ball.

With that recognition, Ball was selected as one of the 10 inaugural members of the Oxford High School Hall of Fame.

When asked about how he felt about being selected as a member of the charter class, he said that it felt good. However, he feels current coach, Ray Sutherland, is just as good or better than he was.

Ball graduated from Reed City High School in 1948, where he earned five letters in the sports of football, basketball and track and field.

After high school, Ball attended Central Michigan University and graduated in 1952. Upon graduating, he spent two years serving in the Korean War.

He first arrived at OHS with a Bachelor's Degree in Drafting and a minor in History. During his 36-year career teaching at OHS, he taught drafting, wood working and mathematics.

It wasn't until 1963 that he began coaching cross country. From 1963-1974 and again from 1995-1996, Ball's teams established a 123-21 dual meet record.

He also claimed four Michigan High School Athletic Association regional championships and four league titles. In 1971, the boy's team finished as runner-up behind individual state champion Doug O'Berry. Ball also coached Jim Goodfellow to a state title in 1969.

In addition to coaching cross country, he also served as an assistant coach for the track and field team under legendary coach Lee Noftz from 1964-1980.

"Mr. Noftz was looking for somebody to help with track and field, and that is how I got started," Ball said.

He was promoted to the head coaching position in 1981 and went on to have an impressive 101-18 record in dual meets. He also captured eight league championships, and Oakland county co-championship and MHSAA Class B boy's track state title in 1991.

When he finally stepped down following the 1992 season, he had coached 11 individual state champions in as many years on the job.

Overall, he has coached 12 individual state champions.

Ball said that the thought about being selected into a hall of fame had never crossed his mind when he was asked to coach the cross country and track and field programs.

Not only was Ball a leader in the classroom and on the athletic fields, he also served as the president of the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association (MITCA) in 1975.

Ball said that during his time as president of MITCA, he was in charge of putting together all of the different coaching association things for that year. He also served as the vice-president and secretary for one year.

He has earned numerous awards from MITCA. He was selected as the Oakland County Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1991 and earned MITCA Coach of the Year honors in 1983 and 1991 as well.

He was also selected to receive MITCA's Charles Sweemey Award in 1988 for his outstanding service to the sport of track and field, his school, community and MITCA.

One of the biggest differences he sees from his days of running and coaching track is how well the tracks are maintained today.

"I ran track in high school and the tracks were not real decent. It was more like a dirt surface and it was full of weeds," said Ball, noting he remembers there were also light posts for the football field "right in the middle of the track."

Since 2002, Ball has served as a volunteer for the cross country program. Ball and his late wife Jeraldine, are the parents of Mike and Steve Ball, both OHS graduates.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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