Hal Canfield

Hall of Fame • Class of 2009

Hal Canfield was one of the original founders of the Knoxville Track and Field Club in 1962. Hal, Charlie Durham, B.E.Sharp, Ben Plotnicki and a few other men interested in promoting high school track & field and running in the community began to organize the Knoxville Track Club, the original goal being to organize a team for track competition in AAU summer meets in the Southeast.

Within a year, Hal, Charlie, Bob Neff, Jerry Wrinkle and Chuck Rohe had established the Knoxville Track & Field Club as a charter organization with a set of by-laws. Hal was the first President of the club.

In the fall of 1962, Hal, helped by his late wife Ginny, founded and directed the KTC running program, which included high school cross-country meets throughout East Tennessee.

In the days before road races and marathons were popular, Hal was a pioneer in staging the first road races in the Southeast. Operating on no budget at all, Hal began a series of road races, the first of which was a 10K cross-country race on the UT Ag campus. The KTC program of road race activity was the first of its kind in the entire Southeast. The founders and organizers of such clubs as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Birmingham and Nashville received their initiation into the sport from participation in Knoxville Track Club competitions organized by Hal.

In addition to organizing and directing all these events Hal was an exceptional athlete, completing a total of 38 marathons, including 18 consecutive Boston Marathons (1959 through 1976). He also competed in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Hal’s first big KTC road race was the Cades Cove Ten Miler, which attracted nationally ranked runners from around the country. Later Hal and KTC started the Smoky Mountain Marathon. In those early days of KTC road racing, three American records were recorded in KTC events, as Hal took road racing to a new level in the Southeast.

In order to successfully conduct track competitions, Hal, Charlie, Chuck Rohe and the other KTC founders, including inductees Bob Neff and Al Rovere, formed the track officials association in the mid sixties. They officiated all of the high school and college meets in Knoxville and began to conduct Coaches Clinics and Officials Clinics. At this time they began to get officials certified by the AAU.

Hal has received the highest honor by USATF in recognition of his track officiating skills, being named an Emeritus Official, and culminating with his selection as the Outstanding Track Official of the Year by the Athletics Congress/USA. He served as an official for the 1984 Olympic Games, the 1987 Pan American Games, and other national and international events.

Hal and Charlie Durham started the KTC Youth Program, sponsored by the Fountain City Jaycees and the Knoxville City Recreation department, in the late 1960’s. Originally there were six practice centers: Evans-Collins; Fulton, West, Central, East and South high schools, with the meets held at Evans-Collins. What started as about 150 kids, including fellow inductee Terry Crawford, now numbers thousands at tracks around East Tennessee, under the current leadership of Marty Sonnenfeldt. Hundreds of outstanding high school and college athletes, as well as community leaders have come out of the KTC Youth Athletic Program.

All the while, Hal has used the artistic skills developed at the Julliard School of Music. For 23 years he was first violinist with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

To marvel at what Hal and his associates achieved with very limited funds as the KTC was born is best exemplified in the following story submitted by Hayes Hunter:

“Back in the mid-70’s there was a KTC race advertised as a 10K Relay that started and finished in the village of Concord with Hal being the race director. Hal laid out and measured the course. The relay team was a two man team with Hal determining the team partners and not revealing who they were until the race was over. Finish places were determined by the combined time of the two team members.
Hal arrived well before race time, registered all the runners and distributed our bib numbers, gave us our pre-race instructions, and fired the starting gun. He next drove to the 5K turn-around on Turkey Creek Road, set up a water station, and handed water to all the runners. After the last runner passed the water station, and the litter was cleaned, Hal drove back to the finish line where he clocked and recorded the finish times.

In short order, Hal hand-calculated the team results, determined the order of finish of each team, and then presented the awards.

This is the only race I have ever run that was conducted by one person, and I am convinced that no one but Hal could have successfully done it. Probably there is no one other than Hal that would even attempt to do this.”

Hal was honored as an inductee in the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.