By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Bob Crellin remembers the 1963 Newburyport High track team as the squad that brought a track to Newburyport.
Crellin captained the indoor and outdoor track teams 50 years ago when the Clippers trained in various locales around the city, such as Hale Street, Low Street, under the football stadium and around the baseball field. The team’s home meets were at a track in Amesbury. That group of Clippers, 54 boys strong, earned the school’s first Northeastern Conference championship in any sport in 20 years. The 1963 Clippers placed second at the State Championship Meet.
The momentum from that team kicked into gear a plan to build a track around the football stadium.
Crellin, the star of the team who was inducted into the Newburyport Hall of Fame in 2006, remembers the spirit of the citizens of Newburyport toward the team.
“It was a great group of guys — 54 of us — on the track team,” said Crellin yesterday from his home in Narragansett, R.I. “There was a lot of spirit, and some success. The spirit of the school and the city of Newburyport is what I remember best. That had a way of getting things going. We were able to get a track built.”
Before running at the University of New Hampshire, Crellin set school records in the 440 (52.2), long jump (21-5 3/4) and 220 (21.4). He won state titles in the 220 and long jump during the outdoor season of his senior year.
He also served as the anchor on a school record-setting half-mile relay team (1:32.2), which also included Phil Bingham, Billy Johnson and Rich Weiner.
“My freshman year, Billy Johnson was the only freshman who could run with the varsity sprinters,” Crellin said. “All I could do is beat a couple of guys on the freshman team. I got a little bigger and a little stronger each year.”
The Clippers went 7-0 during the 1963 outdoor season, capping the dual-meet season with a victory over Andover, which snapped that team’s 26-meet unbeaten streak dating back to 1960. Prior to the meet against Andover, Newburyport softball coach Mary Woodsum postponed her team’s game so her players could attend the track meet.
At the Class B State Meet, Newburyport finished in a tie for second behind Belmont. A week later, Newburyport finished second behind Boston English at the All-State Meet at White Stadium in Boston.
Kenney now works as a credit manager for Kenney Manufacturing in Warwick, R.I. The 1963 team was led by coaches Cliff Ronan and Bill Leeman.