The 2024 Carter County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Banquet

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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By C.Y. Peters

MILLIGAN — Milligan University’s historic Sutton Hall was abuzz with excitement as over 200 attendees gathered for the 2024 Carter County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Banquet. The evening was a tribute to the athletic expertise and dedication of individuals who had not only excelled in their respective sports but had also contributed significantly to the community.

The event was hosted by Richard “Jarfly” Dugger, a legend in the world of fast-pitch softball, known for his remarkable achievement of pitching 46 no-hitters during his career. Dugger’s presence elevated the evening, and his engaging and humble demeanor made the event truly memorable.

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Guest speaker Graham Clark captivated the audience with hilarious and heartfelt stories from his 25-year football coaching career at Kingsport. Known for his quick wit and engaging storytelling, Clark had the crowd in tears of laughter, sharing anecdotes of unforgettable games, quirky players, and the ups and downs of a coach’s life. His performance was a highlight of the evening, leaving everyone with a sense of joy and appreciation for his remarkable journey.

Among the distinguished guests were several notable athletes, each with their own unique legacy. Carl Robertson, a key player on the 1960 Hampton state championship basketball team, reminisced about the golden days of high school basketball and the thrill of their underdog victory.

Ross Garland, a former professional baseball player with the Detroit Tigers, was another highlight of the evening. Also present was John Walton, the celebrated center of the 1969 East Tennessee State University team that famously defeated Terry Bradshaw’s Louisiana Tech in the Grantland Rice Bowl. Reflections on that historic game brought back a flood of memories for many in attendance, who remembered the pride and excitement of that momentous occasion.

The evening took an emotional turn with the presentation of the Larry Bowling Memorial Award. This prestigious award, given in honor of the late Larry Bowling, recognizes outstanding achievement and dedication in sports. The recipient, Saharra McKinney, was a deserving honoree, celebrated for her exceptional contributions and spirit. Larry’s daughter, Heather Bowling, along with Alana Parsons, the inaugural winner of the award and a standout softball player at Milligan University, presented the award.

The banquet also recognized the achievements of 45 high school athletes from the 2023-24 school year. Each athlete was awarded the Number One Medal, a symbol of their hard work, dedication, and success in their respective sports. As they took to the stage, the pride and joy on their faces were palpable, and the applause from the audience was thunderous.

As the evening drew to a close, Jarfly Dugger took the podium one last time to express his gratitude to all who attended and to the organizers for their hard work in making the event a success. He spoke about the importance of sports in building character, fostering community, and creating lifelong memories. His words resonated deeply with everyone in the room, from the young athletes just starting their journeys to the seasoned veterans looking back on their storied careers.

The 2024 Carter County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Banquet was more than just an event; it was a celebration of the rich athletic heritage of Carter County. It was a night filled with laughter, tears, and inspiration, leaving everyone with a renewed sense of pride in their community and its remarkable athletes.