OAK HILL —
After being inactive for 10 years, the Red Devil Sports Hall of Fame is being revived. Three new inductees — Cindy Robertson Aliff, Erin Compton and James Leon Harrah — will be recognized at the OHHS Alumni Reunion at Tamarack on Friday, Aug. 30.
Cindy Robertson Aliff, a 1992 OHHS graduate, enjoyed state championship success while participating in track and cross country for the Red Devils.
She captured four state titles in track, including both the 1600- and 3200-meter races. In 1991, she was also the West Virginia state cross country individual champion.
Robertson Aliff continued to achieve track and cross country success at Wheeling Jesuit College and is a member of the Cardinals’ Athletic Hall of Fame. She was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) division champion and qualified for the national cross country meet. She graduated from WJC in 1996 with an associate degree in physical therapy, then later earned a bachelor of arts in Spanish at the College of West Virginia.
She resides in Scarbro with her husband, Gary, and seven-year-old son, Ayden. For the past 10 years, she has been employed at Heartland of Beckley as a physical therapy assistant.
Coach Sam Calloway says that Cindy was a coach’s dream. “She is the kind of athlete that some never have the pleasure of working with, one who has that rare combination of extraordinary talent and amazing attitude.” According to Calloway, he pushed Cindy as hard as he could and she always met the challenge, willing to strive for more. “She was my shining star. In short, she was a distance runner who was ready to ‘run the distance.’”
Erin Compton, Class of 1999, is the second inductee for this year’s Hall of Fame. And later this year, she will be inducted into the Marshall University Hall of Fame.
While at OHHS, Compton was a member of the track and field team for four years and a member of the girls varsity soccer team for two years, including the inaugural season. She was also a member of the Red Devil marching band and color guard for four years. In addition, she participated in competitive gymnastics for 11 years at Beckley Gymnastics.
Coached in track and field by Calloway and Daniel Davis, she excelled in the throwing ring, winning two state championships in the discus. The first win was in 1997 and the second in 1999. Her winning throw of 145 feet, 5 inches in 1999 is a still-standing state record and is the best mark in state meet history — all classes combined — in the event, according to www.runwv.com.
At the 1999 regional meet at Laidley Field, Compton hurled the disc 153-4, an all-time state best.
Also a third-place finisher in the high jump (5-2) at the 1999 state meet, Compton was the 1999 WV Track and Field Gatorade Circle of Champions Athlete of the Year.
Her high school exploits were simply a precursor for better things at the collegiate level.
Compton was the Herd’s first female All-American, placing eighth in the discus at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the highest finish in NCAA competition for a Thundering Herd track athlete. She set three school records (which still stand) in throws in 2003. She tossed the 20-pound indoor weight 59 feet, 1.25 inches, then followed up by setting MU records outdoors in the discus, with a throw of 171-0, and the hammer with a throw of 181-11. She was a two-time All-Mid-American Conference champion, winning the discus throw in 2001 and 2003 in the outdoor meet.
An Oak Hill native, Compton became the first Marshall student-athlete to win an event at the historic Penn Relays. Her 2003 season had a string of highlights that started at the Ohio Early Bird Invitational, as she broke a still-standing discus record for the facility. That season, she won seven of 10 discus championships in events for MU and took back her Mid-American Conference discus title. At the NCAA qualifier, her throw of 52.12 meters (171 feet) was only 3.02 meters behind the regional champion. She finished with 11 career discus victories and 17 overall victories.
Currently, she is involved with Special Olympics with Wayne County Schools and is working to start a track team for Fort Gay Pre-K-8. She attends Kenova Baptist Church and plays on the church’s team in the Huntington Church Athletic League.
She graduated from Marshall University with a B.A. in elementary education in 2005 and with a M.A. in multicategorical special education in 2013. She is currently employed as a special education teacher for Wayne County Schools at Fort Gay Pre-K-8. She is engaged to Dusty Hughes, of Ashland, Ky., and will be getting married this October. She lives in Ashland.
James Leon Harrah, known to three decades of Red Devil athletes as “Doc,” neither played sports for, nor graduated from, OHHS. However, he has worked hundreds of volunteer hours and saved the school thousands of dollars.
He graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 1964 and moved to the Oak Hill area in 1975.
Harrah had played football and participated in track events while in high school and was always interested in sports activities.
When his sons started playing midget league football, he became a volunteer trainer. In 1977, he started volunteering at Collins Middle School, but soon moved to OHHS and continued there until Coach Tom Mason retired in 1993.
In 1986, the WV Athletic Directors Association awarded him their distinguished service award. He also served as equipment manager-trainer in WVIT’s football and basketball programs from 1987 to 1989. He took a break for a few years, but soon found himself back at OHHS for nine more years between 1997 and 2006. He volunteered at Mount Hope from 2006-2008 and then once more at OHHS for another year in 2008. When Frank Spangler assumed the coaching job at Fayetteville High School for the second time, he was looking for a volunteer trainer, so Harrah switched.
Former coach Mason praises Harrah’s ability as a trainer with his taping techniques and treatment of strains, sprains and other sports injuries. “Because of the way he took care of the players’ injuries, many of them were able to get back into the playing arena much sooner than anticipated,” Mason said. He not only worked with football programs, but basketball, softball, baseball and track, as well. In addition, he was the equipment manager. He admits that he became quite good at sewing and repairing damaged equipment.
Harrah recognizes Dr. Donald Newell and Dr. Barry Stowers for their guidance and mentoring. He relied on their expertise to enable him to do his job.
He also expresses pride that his first student trainer, Scott Keffer, is now a physician, adding, “I like to tell people that I was his teacher.”
Harrah attended Marshall and West Virginia State College. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children and four grandchildren. He recently retired from tire, engine and transmission sales. He now has more time to volunteer and can be found at the Fayetteville High School practice field five or six days a week.
Friday’s banquet will begin at 6 p.m., with the Hall of Fame activities being part of the overall alumni reunion banquet, at which Tom Mason and Adam Toney will be recognized as grand honorees by the Oak Hill High/Collins High Alumni Association.
Registration will be staged from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Friday at the Lewis Community Foundation Christian Community Center on Central Avenue. Copies of The Log will be available, and the Collins High School Christmas ornament being offered by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce will be on sale.