Nowadays it’s not uncommon to come across a spring sport student-athlete juggling two sports. For instance, last spring Cedar Crest junior TJ Moore was the starting goalkeeper for the boys lacrosse team and threw shot put and discus for the track & field team. At Elco, Braden Bohannon plays both baseball and competes in track & field during the spring. Those are only a couple of many examples from recent years.
But 50 years ago, a two-sport spring student-athlete was unheard of. That was until newly-elected Hempfield School District superintendent Don Bissinger approved the experiment for the spring 1970 season.
“There are no such rule that prohibit a high school athlete from taking part in more than one sport in either the county or the state and I don’t really see any problems,” Bissinger was quoted saying in the April 21, 1970 edition of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal.
And it was on this week 50 years ago that Hempfield varsity athletes took part in two sports.
It was also reported in that paper that Hempfield was the only school in the county that was engaged in such an experiment.
And it was on this week 50 years ago that came to fruition when at a Hempfield track & field meet against visiting Manheim Township on April 20, 1970. It’s then four Black Knights’ baseball players competed for the track & field team, with Mike Rice and Chuck Fessler being the first two to cross the finish line in the 220-meter dash, Don Forrey placing second in the high jump and Jeff Herr placing third in the long jump. Overall, Hempfield won 13 of 18 events that day to top Manheim Township, 101-49.
Fessler and Forrey went on to become the first Hempfield student-athletes to earn four varsity letters in the same school year. Fessler did so in football, basketball, baseball and track & field. Forrey did so in soccer, basketball, baseball and track & field.