After 40-plus years of coaching other people's kids, Larry Fleming is finishing his career by working with his own. Fleming, who has coached track and/or football in the area at LaFayette, Rossville, East Ridge, Rigeland and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, is coaching track with his son Chip at Coahulla Creek.
Chip is the head coach and works predominantly with the boys' athletes, while Larry coaches the girls.
The father/son tandem has guided both teams to identical 14-0 meet records this spring. Both teams are led by a sophomore-heavy class with only two seniors on the boys' team and just one in the girls' group.
"We thought we could be pretty good, but when you're this young you never know," Larry said. "The kids are excelling more than we thought early, and there's a lot of promise for the future.
"It's real special getting to coach with Chip. It's a great way to close out my career. He's my boss now, he's in charge, and that's a pretty neat way to end it."
Colts sophomore Josh Fox was named the most valuable jumper at last week's Gordon Lee Invitational and is one of the area's top competitors in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, and classmate A.T. Smith is one of the most versatile athletes on the girls' team, competing in the triple jump, long jump, 100 meters and 4x100 relay.
Sophomore Evelyn Botello is the Lady Colts' best distance runner, and Ashton Patterson, another sophomore and the elder Fleming's granddaughter, throws the discus and shot.
Larry, who resigned at LFO after last spring, now has 1,007 wins in dual or multiple team meets. He was diagnosed with colon cancer last June and underwent nearly six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He was scheduled to undergo surgery in November but said that by then the cancer was no longer there.
"The doctor told me the cancer had gone microscopic. They couldn't find it anymore," Fleming said. "They did exploratory surgery anyway and couldn't find anything. The only explanation is that the good Lord healed me. It was gone.
"I went back for a three-month checkup last week, and I'm still cancer free. I'll keep going every three months for a while, but for now I'm just happy to have the chance to be around young people again and coach with my son."
Mid-South draws 17
McCallie will host the annual Mid-South Invitational again Saturday, with 17 teams from three states competing.
This early-season meet is typically a good measuring stick for teams to determine their strengths and where they need to improve against top-tier competition. Besides McCallie, other area entries are Baylor, GPS, Hixson, Arts & Sciences, Central, Signal Mountain, Heritage, North Murray, Cumberland County, Franklin County and Fort Payne.
"We've hosted this event for at least 35 years, and it's always a great early-season way to see where you are and what areas need work," McCalie coach Mike Wood said. "It's really the first meet of the season where most teams try to be as competitive as possible.
"With this many teams, you know you'll have good competition in every event. And there are always kids that step up in an event that you didn't realize they were good at, and some of them use this event as kind of a springboard for bigger things later in the season."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.