Not only did Nathan Purcell achieve feats no Salem Community High School cross country runner had previously accomplished, but he helped lift the Wildcats program to unprecedented heights.

Purcell posted the highest finish by a Salem runner at the Class AA state meet during his junior season in 1997 when he finished seventh with a time of 14:36, as the Wildcats’ 13th place finish was their best as a team.

During his senior season in 1998 Purcell won individual regional and sectional championships followed by a ninth place finish at the state meet with a time of 14:44. That year the Wildcats climbed four more spots in the team standings with a ninth place finish.

Not only did Mike Minton earn the distinction of becoming Salem Community High School’s first state champion, team or individual, he went on to win four Class AA state titles and six state medals overall in track and field by the time he graduated in 1999.

Minton claimed his first two state medals as a sophomore in 1997 when he finished third in the discus throw with a toss of 171-8 and fifth in the shot put at 56-7 1/2. Those medals were the first by a Salem Community High School boy at the state track meet since Louis “Tuffy’ Middleton’ took fourth in the mile back in 1927.

As a junior in 1998, Minton not only became a two-event state champion but also set a state meet record in the discus with his winning throw of 192-1. That came after he won the shot put with a throw of 60-8 1/2.

When it came to participating in Class AA state meets, Chris Owen was a fixture during his four years in high school.

The 1997 Salem Community High School graduate qualified for state all four years in track and field as an individual, but he also was a part of four state-qualifying cross country teams.

Owen qualified for state in the 3200 meters in each of those years. As a freshman he advanced to state with a second place finish at the sectional meet with a time of 9:50.84 and was 12th in his heat at the state prelims at 10:04.06.

By the time Jeff Morgan completed his golf career at Salem Community High school, the 1993 graduate had raised the standard bar to a new level.

At the time of his induction into the SCHS Sports Hall of Fame, Morgan owned the top three scoring averages with marks of 36.2 strokes per nine holes in 1991, 36.8 in 1992 and 37.6 in 1990.

Besides season averages, Morgan set course records at Salem Country Club with a three-under-par 33 and at Mt. Carmel with another round of three-under-par 33. Morgan finished first or tied for first in 37 of Salem’s 46 regular season meets during his four years in high school.

A program that had posted just one winning season in the previous 18 years put everything together during the 1998-99 campaign when the Salem Lady Wildcats basketball team broke the school record for wins en route to the program’s deepest advancement in postseason play.

Salem’s road to a 28-3 record began when the Lady Wildcats won the Mascoutah Round Robin Tournament with victories over Greenville 62-40, Breese Central 46-41 and Mascoutah 49-42. Renee Brubaker scored 33 points during the three games and was named tournament most valuable player, while Megan Grizzle was also named to the all-tournament squad.

Salem added victories over Highland, Lawrenceville, Red Hill, Flora and Mt. Carmel before it suffered its first blemish at Mt. Vernon 64-50.

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