KirbyPhilllipsKirby Phillips had already enjoyed coaching success with the Salem Wildcats football underclassmen when he became the head coach of the boys track program in 1985. Two year later Phillips added head coach of the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats cross country teams to his duties. When Phillips stepped away from those positions after the 2001-02 school year, he had taken each of those programs to heights not previously achieved.

While his first Salem boys track team in 1985 came up short at the North Egypt Conference Meet, his squads came back to win the title in each of the next 16 seasons. Phillips’ greatest success with the Wildcats track program came in 1999 when Salem grabbed a share of the Class AA Murphysboro Sectional championship. That remains as the program’s only sectional title. That 1999 team later finished fourth at the state meet. During Phillips’ track tenure Salem qualified more than 30 individuals and 15 relay teams for the Class AA state meet in a two-class system.

Noah Cosby’s specialty was the pole vault.

At SCHS he qualified for 3 state meets, placing 2nd at the sectional in 1998 and winning the sectional championship in 1999 and 2000. Cosby placed 7th in the IHSA state meet in 1999 and 3rd in 2000.

Along the way Cosby established the North Egypt Conference record of 15’0″ in 2000 and the SCHS record of 15’3″, set at the East St. Louis Invitational in his senior year.

Cosby continued his career at Ole Miss and at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In college his personal record was 17’3″. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference champion in 2004 and an NCAA qualifier in 2005.

The 1999 boys track team is the first track team to be inducted into the SCHS Hall of Fame. The accomplishments of this team, undoubtedly, make it one of the best teams in any sport at Salem Community High School.

Coached by Kirby Phillips and assisted by Orlando Ramos, their success began early in the season when they won the Sterling Indoor Meet, edging out Springfield Lanphier. Throughout their season, the team totally dominated all dual and triangular meets. In large, multiple team meets they were champions of the Paducah Tilghman Invitational, Wamac Invitational and Marion Relays, and finished an impressive second place at the Mineral Area Meet at Belleville West, Orphan Relays, Al Joyner Classic, and Mt. Vernon Relays. (more…)

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.

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