Anxious to become a full-time educator at Farragut High School, and have the interim tag taken off his position during the 1976-77 school year, Bill Parker was more than willing to become a track and field and cross-country coach at the school.
However, “I had never stepped on a track, as far as any coaching, until I came to Farragut High School,” said Parker, a math teacher and later an assistant principal who led the FHS girls track and field team to four consecutive state titles (1991-1994) while winning 11 team state crowns in 20 years of coaching (20 years as cross-country head coach and 17 as girls track and field skipper).
Nine other times his teams were state runners-up.
Parker retired in June after 40 years with Knox County Schools, 26 at FHS and the last 14 in KCS central office — the final 10 as director of technology. “The 40 years seemed to go pretty quick,” said Parker, who was honored with a retirement reception held at Farragut Primary School Friday evening, June 17.
Reflecting back, he said, “I got a call from Lendon Welch [long-time former FHS teacher and coach], saying he needed help coaching track and cross-country. And I said, ‘I’m the guy.’ I had no experience whatsoever. … My attitude was, ‘I’m going to make it work. I’m going to learn how to do it.”
As cross-country head coach in 1976, Parker said, “As I recall I had five guys on the cross-country team and I don’t think I had any girls. And I was Lendon’s assistant for the first year of the boys [track] team.”
A few years later, in the early 1980s when Parker’s boys cross-country team was competing for a state championship, generosity got in the way.
At a rest stop on the way to the state tournament meet, “One of our guys came back and said, ‘This guy needs a ride to the meet.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ His coach had left him,” Parker said. “… We finished second. The team that beat us was Clarksville Northwest, by six points, and [the runner they picked up] was their No. 1 runner.”
Parker’s cross-country girls ended up winning state championships in “1983, 1984, 1987 and maybe 1991,” he said. His boys cross-country won one state crown, “I think in 1992.”
Among Parker’s ideas on building a top-notch cross-country program, “Having camps and things to spur a little more interest,” he said about starting those camps in 1977. “… A lot of it was camaraderie.”
In the process of learning track and field and cross-country, “I read and studied what other coaches were doing. Some of it was trial and error,” Parker said.
“By working with him I learned a lot that I was able to apply to my own coaching. He taught me many things by example and by his leadership that allowed me to continue the tradition at Farragut High School,” said Kellie Ivens, an FHS assistant principal and former Admirals and Lady Admirals track and field and cross-country head coach who won a handful of state championships herself.
Reflecting on FHS, “That 26 years was a big deal,” Parker said. “A lot of memories there. Mr. [James W.] Bellamy [FHS principal when Parker was hired], one of the best guys to work for. And Bob Dagley, assistant principal, and his people skills.
“I learned a lot from both of those gentlemen.”