A legendary team, fit for a tribute

A legendary team, fit for a tribute
Coach Jim Donovan, John Edwards, James Simmons, Jack Lanier, Capt. Bob Moore, Mr. Floyd Lay, Executive Director of the Florida High School Activities Association, John Colson, Charles Arwood, David Learn and Coach Richard Altman; not pictured is Roy Lima.

It was a heartwarming event filled with laughter, memories and tears of joy as the Lee High School Class of 1968 gathered to recognize their classmates. The special team of eight, consisting of four seniors, two juniors and two sophomores were the last state title winning team that Lee High School has produced.

The story of their triumphant trip to the Ft. Lauderdale State Track meet, their shocking win and the goal to gift them championship rings is one for the ages.

When the Class of ’68 got together last year for their 45-year anniversary, the topic of the track team title was discussed among members of the graduating class. Longtime track coach Jim Donovan (Lee Class of ’58) was in attendance and was approached by alum Rogers Holmes. Holmes offered to buy the coach a few steaks to thank him for his dedication to the school and to his service as track coach. The passionate and dedicated coach respectfully requested that Holmes put the money toward something close to his heart, a fund to buy the 1967 State Champion Track Team rings. With a ‘can do’ attitude, Rogers replied, “Let it be done,” and the rest was history.

Lee High School Principal James Ledford, Charles Arwood, Jack Lanier, James Simmons, Capt. Bob Moore, Roy Lima, John Colson, James Edwards, Honorary Team Member Rogers Holmes, Coach Jim Donovan and Lee High School Athletic Director Rosalyn Johnson

Lee High School Principal James Ledford, Charles Arwood, Jack Lanier, James Simmons, Capt. Bob Moore, Roy Lima, John Colson, James Edwards, Honorary Team Member Rogers Holmes, Coach Jim Donovan and Lee High School Athletic Director Rosalyn Johnson

After a year-long fundraising campaign, led by Holmes and alumni manager/ webmaster Pam Register Murray, the rings looked to be an attainable gift. Not only did the
overwhelming support fund the rings, but the dinner and festivities, including a surplus of $1,000 which was donated to the Lee High School Athletic Department. “The way that it’s happening [ring ceremony], the classmates getting together and making it happen, it means so much more to me happening this way then if they’d given us a ring back in ’67,” said Team Captain Bob Moore. “I can’t tell you the feeling of appreciation and humbleness that my fellow classmates have provided.”

“They weren’t predicted to win, in fact, they figured Fletcher would win it,” said Coach Donovan of the team, as if reliving the memories. Back in the days when Jacksonville was a powerhouse in the Track and Field and Cross Country competitions, the odds were stacked against the young men.

“We got down to Ft. Lauderdale, all the guys were happy, they were reading the papers, ‘cause back then there was a lot of writing and…nothing about Lee.” He continued, “That’s all right, I said to ‘em, ‘They don’t know us, I’d rather be the dark horse.’ They were all upset about it and they said, ‘We’ll show ‘em’ and you could kinda’ see it in their eyes. So, the next day when we got up there, they didn’t have a lot to say, all of the other teams were horsing around and playing, they were business,” said Donovan. “When it came time, they were warmed up, in other words, they were like professionals – they went about business. When they got on the line and took off, we could all feel it.”

After sharing these memories, the group reveled around a small television and clapped for their peers when their 20 seconds of glory aired on a local news station. The bios were read and the rings and plaque presentation ensued, tears included. The ceremony for the squad took place June 21, at the Lakeshore Women’s Club at 2352 Lake Shore Blvd.
To connect with the Lee High Class of 1968, visit leeclassof68.com.

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