Jerry Arnold is the former track coach at Mill Creek High School.
Jerry Arnold, 60, is the meet director for track and field events at Mill Creek. Prior to his retirement in 2008, Arnold coached cross country and track and field for 35 years at Carrollton, Brookwood and Mill Creek. During that time his team won 17 state championships.
Arnold is a 1969 graduate of East Rome High School and a 1973 grad of West Georgia College, where he spent one year as a graduate assistant under legendary Tennessee coach Bill Webb. Arnold is a member of the West Georgia, Carrollton and Georgia cross country and track and field halls of fame.
In this latest installment of "Getting to know ..." staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Arnold about his involvement in track and field, his golf game and getting run over by a Buford runner.
BB: For a retired guy, you spend a lot of time staying busy with track.
JA: I love the sport. I spent 40 years in it, starting in ninth grade and up until now. I guess it's more than 40 years now. I love the sport, I like to see kids do well and I like to stay in touch with what's going on. And I have a lot of friends in coaching areas around the county and around the state.
BB: At a track meet, what's your favorite event to watch?
JA: As a former coach, I like to watch the technical events. As a former athlete, I was a distance runner, so I really love the distance events. The technical events, the hurdles, the pole vault, the discus, those are the things that intrigue me.
BB: I'm gonna put you on the spot. Who's the best athlete in Gwinnett County history, cross country or track?
JA: Well, the best athlete is Stephen Harris, who went to Tennessee and won the NCAA decathlon. Juan Daniels from Norcross. Norcross has had some good athletes. There was some good athletes at Brookwood. Antonio Lamar threw the discus all the way across the track at the state meet at Jefferson. There's been so many good kids. As far as the best athlete, how could you go wrong with the NCAA national decathlon champion?
BB: How has track and field in Georgia grown over the last 20 years?
JA: I think a lot of the growth of the sport in track and field has to do with the information availability. Now we have sites we can go to and look at what other people are doing here and look at what other people are doing around the nation. I mean, when I was at Brookwood we tried to expose our kids by going up to New York to run and over to Charlotte to national meets. The more people look at the times around the state and they want to get better. So that's one of the reasons it's grown is the availability of information for kids to know where they are and where they stand and try to move up the ladder.
BB: I know you had some involvement with this, but what do you think of the sectional that will go in place in 2012?
JA: I heard so many coaches over the years I was coaching, all they would do was, 'Why can't we do something about this? I've got a 16-foot pole vaulter sitting at home or I've got a 56 (foot) shot putter, or in the 3,200 case a 4:12 miler might be sitting at home and that's a shame for the kids.' When all the other sports were taking four athletes or four teams to the state venue. I said there's got to be a way and I got together a group of coaches from different areas of the state and we met. We decided the steps to make it happen, what are the sticking points and solve the problems. We came before the Georgia High School Association and I got out of coaching the next year and I didn't feel like it was my choice, so (Brookwood coach) Chris Carter took up the banner and went to the state association. I think they are going to accuse him of being a member of the executive committee he's been down there so much. It's good for the sport to take four out of each region. Out of the sectional they will still take eight out of the two sectionals and advance them to state. I think you'll see that the state meet will be a lot more competitive.
BB: How often do you play golf and where do you like to play?
JA: I play at Hamilton Mill, I'm a member there. I do most of my golf there. We've got a standard tee time on Saturdays and Sundays. Then I play with a senior group on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so I play a good bit. I thought I would be able to play more, but unfortunately winter came and this is the worst winter I've ever seen. It was a little frustrating. My wife Marcia said I need to get a job, so I would stop bossing her. She told me there was a job at the mall driving the train. Now the weather is cleared up, I plan to play a little more.
BB: What's your handicap?
JA: It's 12 right now. I had it down to six, but over the winter because of my injury it just hurt every time I hit the ball. I just couldn't play this winter and it went up to a 12.
BB: Do you have a favorite pro golfer to watch?
JA: No. I like to watch golf. I really enjoyed the Masters and what Phil Mickelson did. I was sitting on the couch and when he holed No. 14, I just jumped up. My wife thought something was wrong. It was great to see. I just love competition.
BB: I have to ask you about the county meet a few years ago. I heard you got decleated by a Buford's Yvan Banag while he was warming up for the 100. Do you remember that?
JA: Oh yeah. Well I was the assistant starter at the county meet. There were some people on the infield and we were down by the 100 meter and I was on one side of the track. I came on the track and across the track to tell some spectators to leave the area and as I was walking back across the track the next thing I know people are standing over me. There was a giant laying beside me on the track, he was down, too. It turns out he went on to South Carolina to play linebacker. (Parkview coach) Mark Whitley, I remember him standing over me saying, 'Do you want your shoe?' After that I started saying I need to be somewhere else other than down in the main action.
BB: In 40 years of being involved with track and field, is that your first time being knocked down like that?
JA: That is. I knew it when it happened. It was a crushing blow because he was going full speed out of the blocks and he had about a three step lead and slammed in my side.
BB: You've got 17 state titles during you career from cross country and track and field. Do you just have a jewelry box full of state championship rings?
JA: (Laughs) No. Back in the old days we didn't get rings, so I've got some. Part of those I helped Joe Carter, who is one of my best friends, he and I coached cross country together.
BB: How much longer do you see yourself staying involved with track and field?
JA: I'll do it as long ... I really enjoy it and I'm pleased that Rik (Moore) asked me to come in and help with this side of it so I can be up here and stay involved. I loved it and I wasn't ready to get out of it totally. I can't play golf at night, so this is a good thing to be involved in.