Presnell leaves A.D. post with class, dignity

By Allen LaMountain

   A career that for the last 30 years has revolved around sports -- including the last seven as EHS Athletic Director -- has seen the long winding road reach it's conclusion as Jim Presnell resigned his post as Cyclone A.D. effective June 30.
   "I never dreamed that I would get the chance to be the Athletic Director," Presnell said. "That spot is usually reserved for the head football coach or basketball coach. I appreciate that seven years ago Dr. Strickland and Mr. Alexander gave me the opportunity. This last seven years have been the most exciting time for me, and we have seen a lot of success in sports over that period."
   After graduating from East Tennessee State in 1978, Presnell began his coaching career as a student teacher at Dobyns-Bennett where he was an assistant track coach under Dan Crowe.
   "I started at the University of Tennessee in 1974-75," stated Presnell. "And I transferred to ETSU on a track scholarship to be closer to home and to my family and to my girlfriend Karen, who I married in 1976."
   From there Presnell moved on to North Cobb High School (Ga.) where he coached that school's track and cross country teams to state championships in 1979.
   "I coached two girls that won state titles in shot put and discus," said Presnell. "And I also coached a boys' state champion that year."
   Moving back to Betsy in 1980 due to his father's poor health, Presnell was offered a job as head coach of the EHS track team and remained in that post for 15 years.
   As head coach at Betsy Presnell coached four players to state championships in track and field, including Angie Barker, who won six titles in shot put and discus.
   Rob McFarland took top honors in high hurdles, Chris Jenkins won a cross country title and Lenny Norwood won a state shot put championship.
   Presnell also coached girls basketball for three years, and was an assistant on the football staff on and off and was head coach of the Junior Varsity and Freshman teams at Betsy as well.
   As a student as EHS, Presnell won the state championship in the discus in 1973 and set a school record in that event that stands to this day. Presnell's son Andrew gave it his best shot at knocking dad from the record books and finished third in the state this past week in the event.
   Some of the things Presnell has seen accomplished during his tenure as A.D. are getting new tennis courts, refurbishing Treadway Gym and having an impact on the facilities used by every sports team at EHS.
   These are some of the things that he is most proud of saying, "I'm very proud of what we have accomplished the last seven years, but it wouldn't have been possible without the support of the administration.
   "Mr. Alexander and I have worked together and been backed by Dr. Strickland, Dr. Lynch and Mrs. Blevins in order to get done what needed to be done."
   Presnell sees a bright future for Betsy sports programs, especially with the move to the more appropriate 2A level. "Probably one of the toughest decisions I had to make was the move to AA. That question probably came up three or four times over the course of my time here as to whether or not we should make the move.
   "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have waited so long to make the decision seeing the success we are having in every sport at this level."
   This season was one of the most memorable in EHS history for Presnell as every sports team went farther than they ever had before.
   "Without a doubt this has been, as a whole, the most successful athletic year in school history," Presnell said. "Golf won a district championship. Both the boys and girls soccer teams reached the Regional tournament. The baseball team and boys soccer team were both one win away from going to the state, and both had a very exciting season.
   "We have some good coaches here and the best compliment that I can pay them is to say that I'm glad my kids got to play for them. I am proud of the coaching staff's we have here at EHS."
   As far as what the future holds Presnell says he has not ruled out the possibility of coaching saying, "I kind of filled in as assistant track coach because we didn't have anybody else, and it got my competitive juices flowing a little bit. I'm going to take some time off and think about it, but it will be a decision for the new athletic director. I don't know what doors the Lord will open for me. He may have something entirely different for me."
   Presnell would like to stay involved with coaching because as he said, "My best friend's are all the coaches here. I anticipate that I'll still be hanging around them, as far as seeing how their teams are doing. After so many years of sitting in that chair by the gate, it will be strange to sit in the stands."
   Presnell wishes the best of luck to his successor and said, "I appreciate all the public support and good will that the people of Elizabethton have shown over the years in support of our athletic programs here. I know with the great fans we have that it will continue that way. Hopefully, we can find someone within our school system to move us forward. I think we have everything in place for that person to be successful."
   Of his resignation Presnell said it was, "It has been basically seven years of 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and maybe it's time for me to step back and let someone with a little more energy than me to do it.
   "I just want to say publicly that some of the people that I have had confrontations with, that I wish I had said things differently. Sometimes things don't come out of my mouth with the same intention that's in my mind and heart, but I never wanted to offend anyone."