The 1945 Wildcat team was one of the smallest teams in SCHS history, and one of the grittiest.

One of the better football teams in the school’s history, they parlayed quickness and speed with deception to offset their lack of size – the first team average weight was 150 pounds. Usually, their opponents outweighed them on an average of 30-60 pounds per man.

They were an explosive team on offense and stingy on defense, outscoring the opposition 273-60 in a 10-game season. Head coach Kenny Farrar and his assistant, Howard Thurman, stressed physical conditioning, an explosive and deceptive offense, and quickness on defense to offset the lack of size.

dean_whiteA forerunner of the now essential “big man” in basketball, Dean White, was a key member of the 1943 Salem Community High School basketball team that won third place in the state tournament.

White participated in football, basketball and track three years at SCHS. He was a member of the North Egypt Conference football championship teams of 1940 and 1941. Salem was second to Flora in 1942 as the 13-0 Flora victory was Salem’s only conference loss that season. In White’s three years of football, Salem had a 16-1-1 conference record, with only one touchdown scored against them in NEC play in 1941.

morris_sterneckIn college, his basketball coach called him “Mr. Hustle” and in high school and college he was always “Mr. Persistent”. Morris H. “Mush” Sterneck, a 1951 SCHS graduate, went on to serve as captain of the University of Illinois basketball team during the 1954-55 season.

Sterneck participated in basketball and track during his high school years, and participated in basketball and baseball at the University of Illinois. He was a consistent and game-wise player on the basketball court, on the baseball field, and on the track.

He exemplified his “persistent” tag in track. On a particularly rainy, cold day during a North Egypt Conference meet, Sterneck ran “his” race and won the mile run by doggedly staying in his routine. The time wasn’t nearly as good as the effort but he won the race.

Sterneck was a member of the Fighting Illini varsity basketball and baseball teams. In basketball, his sophomore year, he was a teammate of Hall of Famer Jim Bredar, a senior, who was captain that year.


smithThe oldest of the “Oldtimers”, Ross Smith, was the first outstanding track and field performer in Salem High sports. His specialties were the shot put, discus hurl and hammer throw – an event no longer held. In the South Central meet at Lebanon in 1905, an association that encompassed the southern part of Illinois, he garnered gold medals in all three events and advanced to the state track meet, taking second in the hammer throw.

Smith consistently won all the events in three years of high school competition. He won the shot put with 42′ 4″ and the hammer throw with 145’3-1/4″ – “a trifle more than the combined distance of the other contestants”. He was also an outstanding baseball player.

When a fire broke out during the 1905 graduation ceremonies, according to the Salem Herald-Advocate newspaper, he was credited with saving several lives by organizing an orderly evacuation.

hornHorn was the first all-stater from Salem in football. He was on the Salem team of 1929, coached by Hall of Famer Fred Corray, that played four tie games, finishing with a 5-1-4 record. He played football at the University of Illinois for 2 years and participate in boxing while pursuing a law degree, later becoming chief circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit.

hilgefordAn outstanding track performer, Hilgeford set an SCHS record in the 100-yard dash of 10.1 seconds, a record that still stands. Hilgeford was a top class sprinter, competing in the state track meet and consistently running 1-2 against world class sprinter Ralph Metcalf.

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