During 1939-1940, Follansbee’s Ralph Freshwater was the West Virginia State mile run champion. His first place finish in 1940 at the State meet held in Morgantown was in 4 minutes, 38 seconds, just 3 seconds behind the record. Ralph was a sensation in the Ohio Valley and among the best distance runners to ever represent Follansbee.
At the 1940 OVAC championship held on a cinder track at Wheeling Island stadium, Ralph set a new mile run record. His time was 4 minutes, 39.7 seconds beating the old record of 4.45 set in 1932. In the same race, teammate Joe Dalesio placed third scoring additional points for Follansbee.
The Blue Wave mile relay team, composed of Tom Paolo, Bill Green, John Yauch, and Ralph Freshwater, broke the old OVAC record set by Bellaire in 1931. The new record of 3 minutes, 38.9 seconds bettered the previous mark of 3 minutes, 40 seconds. Before the meet ended, John Yauch won the 200-yard low hurdles race in 24.1 seconds, equaling the OVAC record. Other outstanding track stars in the meet were Jack Dunn, winning the high hurdlers in 16.4 seconds. Bill Green tied for first place in the pole-vaulting event and Joe Capito placed third in the high jump.
Freshwater recalled that the cinder tracks were slower compared to harder surface tracks in the Ohio Valley. He also recalled that the Follansbee track, which was a cinder track, only allowed for five lanes for competition in the hurdles and 100 and 220 dash events. Coach T. J. Hill held track practice after classes and then Ralph would hitch hike home, which was on Eldersville road. (See 1954 – T. J. Hill on Timeline)
Ralph was on T. J. Hill’s track teams during the 1938-1940 seasons. During the 1938 season other trackmen who participated with Ralph were: Tony Gigilo, 440: Emil Barnett, Dean Stocks, Jack and Lawrence Dunn, hurdles; Leo Cocco, distance runs; Dale Carmody, pole vault; George Connell, dashes; Leroy Martin, middle distance runs; Robert Prekup, weights; and Angelo Calvarese, jumps.
After graduating from FHS in 1940, Freshwater and his four brothers served in the armed forces during WWII. Ralph said they drafted the guys who were earning the most money last so that they could care for their family. After returning from the service, Ralph worked in construction and later started his own construction company in Wintersville, Ohio.
*The Ingot (FHS Newspaper), “State Champion Mile Runner,” May 25, 1940, p. 5.
*Phone interview, Ralph Whitewater,” August 7, 2013.