Tony Waldrop and his wife, Dr. Julee Waldrop (photo via University of South Alabama)

Polk native Waldrop elected to state Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame

Legendary Polk Central High School running standout Tony Waldrop has been elected to the North Carolina High School Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame.

Waldrop was chosen for the Hall’s third class in the legacy athlete category, which recognizes North Carolina track and field and cross country athletes who went on to star in college and/or post-collegiately.

The Polk Central great won three state high school outdoor track titles, taking the 880-yard run in 1969 and the mile in 1968 and 1970. But he quickly grew to national and international prominence as a runner at the University of North Carolina.

As a Tar Heel, Waldrop set the world indoor mile record (3:55.0), became a two-time NCAA champion (indoor 1,000-yards, 1973; indoor mile, 1974) and a six-time All-American. He would also win the prestigious Penn Relays in 1974, and won a gold medal in the 1500 meters at the 1975 Pan Am Games.

A statewide committee of 20 track and field and cross country coaches, officials and media representatives who cover the sport extensively nominated and elected the class. The induction ceremony will be held Jan. 29 in Winston-Salem during the Mondo Elite High School Invitational at JDL Fast Track, which will also house the Hall of Fame.

Former Polk County High standout cross country runner Karen Godlock was part of the Hall’s second class in 2020.

Joining Waldrop in this year’s class are Olympian and six-time Track & Field News High School All-American Anna Cockrell (Providence Day School); U.S. Junior Champion and 5-time Track & Field News High School All-Amerian Kamorean Hayes (Harding); 2014 Track & Field News and National High School Coaches Association National High School Track & Field Athlete of the Year Trentavis Friday (Cherryville); 2006 Track & Field News High School National Athlete of the Year and 2006 USATF Youth Track & Field Athlete of the Year Gabby Mayo (Southeast Raleigh); 17-time state champion Darius Brewington (High Point Andrews); as well as DePaul Mittman (Western Guilford), who has contributed immensely to the sport as a coach and official as well as founding and leading the North Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association and serving as volunteer director/coordinator for various national meets; and Norman Trzaskoma (Winston-Salem R.J. Reynolds), a seven-time state championship coach.

“North Carolina has had state championships in track and field since 1913, and has had indoor track meets since 1922, when the first meet was held at the old Star Brick Warehouse in Durham, and we’ve had cross country meets since 1929 when Winston-Salem High (R.J. Reynolds) dominated the sport, so we’re far behind on recognizing those who have accomplished so much and given so much to the sport,” said Hall of Fame founder Brett Honeycutt.

“That’s our goal, to honor those who have helped make this sport so great in North Carolina, and these first three classes are a collection of some of the best athletes, coaches and contributors in the history of our sport.”

An accomplished researcher, teacher and administrator in higher education for more than 30 years, Waldrop recently retired after spending seven years as president of the University of South Alabama. Prior to that position, he served four years as provost and executive vice president at the University of Central Florida, with previous stints as vice chancellor for research and economic development at the University of North Carolina and vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois.

*Set the world indoor mile record of 3:55 in 1974
*Six-time All-American at the University of North Carolina
*2-time NCAA champion (NCAA indoor 1,000-yard title, 1973; NCAA indoor mile title in 1974)
*Won gold in the 1,500 meters at the 1975 Pan Am Games while in college
*Won the mile at the prestigious Penn Relays in 1974.
*In high school, he won 3 NCHSAA state outdoor titles in the 800 (1969), and mile (1968 and 1970).
*Before high school national meets were prevalent, his times of 1:53 and 4:18 were incredible considering he ran those at the 1A/2A state meet an on inferior surfaces.