Hal Canfield was always there at the finish line. You could count on it like clockwork.
That's how former University of Tennessee runner Marty Sonnenfeldt remembers Canfield, one of the founding members of the Knoxville Track Club in 1962.
Canfield died Thursday. He was 89.
"I first met Hal when I was running for UT in the (mid) 1970s," Sonnenfeldt said Sunday. "He was always there at the finish line. Back then you had Accu-track (timing), but you still needed people there at the finish line for longer races to help judge he finish. He was a fixture there."
Canfield was a fixture for decades in the Knoxville running community, and the first president of the Knoxville Track Club.
Canfield and his late first wife, Ginny, founded and directed the KTC Youth Program, which included directing high school cross-country meets in East Tennessee. He remained active as a track and field official and worked with the KTC distance program as a volunteer until about two years ago.
"Later on I got to know Hal better through he and his wife's involvement in setting up road races in Knoxville neighborhoods," said Sonnenfeldt, longtime KTC board member and the program's youth director since 1987. "He and his wife put on the Cades Cove Ten Miler themselves. They did it all. It was amazing."
They did it with little or no money in days long before road races and marathons were popular. The KTC road racing circuit was believed to be the first of its kind in the Southeast.
"He was a wonderful man," Sonnenfeldt said. "He made tremendous contributions to the sport in general. As an athlete, he was an accomplished runner in his own right. The breadth of what he did as an athlete, an official, an organizer and administrator, it's hard to top."
Canfield ran track and cross-country and played basketball at Syracuse. He was fifth in the half-mile in the 1948 0IympicTrials and competed in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Trial Marathons. He ran 38 marathons, including 18 consecutive Boston Marathons (1959-76).
Charlie Durham was one of the KTC's founding members with Canfield in 1962. At the time, Durham was also spending time with then-new UT track coach Chuck Rohe.
"We started the Knoxville Track Club within that year (1962);' Durham said. “I spent most of my time with track and field and Hal was really big in the early years starting long distance and cross-country programs for high schools. We had neither in (Knoxville). His back-ground at Syracuse was middle and long distance running."
Canfield began directing cross-country meets on Cherokee Boulevard, among other routes, in the 1960s.
"Hal Canfield was the one really responsible for long distance and cross-country programs in (area) high schools in the 1960’s” Durham said. "Of course, he helped Chuck (Rohe at UT) with long distance and cross-country meets .... Hal was a hard worker and he was very dedicated to long distance running. I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated."
Former KTC Executive Director Allen Morgan remembers Canfield as a volunteer with boundless energy.
"He was a devoted volunteer, and I think that was his main area of volunteer interest, "Morgan said. “His extracurricular hours were an enthusiast of track and field and long distance. He was tireless.
"What amazes me is the number of years he did it, 40 or 50 years, all those hours and hours."
Canfield was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.