EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of profiles on the 2019 class of the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and announcement of the winner of the 2019 Wilmington News Journal Clinton County Scholar-Athlete Award is 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Expo Center on the Clinton County Fairgrounds. Reservations and payment can be made at the News Journal office. Cost is $25 per reservation. UP NEXT: John Patton.
Clinton County athletes today may not be able to appreciate the rivalries that existed on the local basketball courts from the 1910s through the mid-1960s.
With as many as 10 high schools in the Clinton County League at one time, each small community had its own school. The school was the community. The community was the school. Fans, for the most part, didn’t much care for the “other team.”
It’s just not the same today.
The rivalry between Sabina and Simon Kenton in the 1960s was as heated as any in county history.
“It got your heart going; the fans were rabid,” said 1963 Sabina grad Larry Miller.
And Miller was a fierce competitor on the field of play, the basketball court, in this case.
However, when the game was over, so was the rivalry, in Miller’s mind. Merle Henry, Butch Hooper and Bobby Hooper played for Simon Kenton.
“If Bobby brought something in (the lane), I was going to … knock him on his (butt). I might help him up … ,” said Miller. “We’d play (Simon Kenton) Friday night and Butch and Bobby and I would be doing something together Saturday morning. Merle was one of my best friends. They were good friends then and good friends they will always be.
“I took a little bit of grief from my teammates, the people in Sabina … I’d just smile and walk away.”
After Sabina, Miller played basketball and ran track at Ohio University his freshman year. At the start of his college career, Miller determined chemical engineering wasn’t his cup of tea. He nearly flunked out of school. “I just wasn’t smart enough,” he admits.
Miller hit his stride in the classroom once he changed his major to Business. It paid off well in the end. He spent most of his career in the banking industry before owning his own commercial printing company in Texas.
As an athlete, Miller found his stride early in life. He was a highly successful baseball, basketball and track/field standout. He was a good player for good basketball and baseball teams at Sabina.
He was a standout track/field athlete at a time when “track and field was almost an afterthought” in high school, he said.
While he had ability — “It was just speed, just God-given talent” — Miller again was befriended by a rival from another school to hone his running skills.
Don Henry, son of Clinton County Sports Hall of Famer Willard Henry and yet another athlete from Simon Kenton, had the county 100-yard dash record at 10.5 seconds. Henry was willing to teach Miller how to get a faster start so he could break the sprint record.
“Only in Clinton County would a guy teach someone how to get a faster start to beat his own record,” said Miller.
Miller went on to set the record and earn five Clinton County running championships. He went to the state in the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash and the broad jump. Miller placed fourth in the 100 and 220 in the state his senior year, the first county athlete to pull off the double-podium feat.
“I almost didn’t have to practice,” he said. “It (running fast) was easy.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports