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Volunteer introduces new coaches Ailshie, Cloninger

By JIMMY MOORE TriCitiesSports.com • Aug 3, 2016 at 10:54 PM

CHURCH HILL — Ever since coming to the Hawkins County school system 11 years ago, Dobyns-Bennett graduate Jim Ailshie had always hoped that a track coaching position that matched his qualifications would become available.

Two weeks ago, Ailshie made a call to Volunteer High School Principal Bobby Wines after hearing about track coach Claudette Sivert’s retirement.

“I was informed of the track coach opening and had prayed about it and called Mr. Wines,” said Ailshie at a press conference at the school Wednesday.

“We talked with my family over the weekend and just felt like the timing was right because it’s what I’ve wanted to do ever since I came to Hawkins County.”

Ailshie leaves a principal’s job at Rogersville Middle School to replace Sivert.

“We wanted to have one person over boys and girls track and also cross country,” said Volunteer athletic director Jimmy Whalen. “Bobby called me on Friday night and said Jim Ailshie wants to come and take over track.”

“That’s a home run,” said Wines.

Also announced at the press conference was the hiring of former Morristown East girls basketball head coach Tracy Cloninger to replace Jerry Myers, who left to take the head coaching position at Thomas Walker.

Joining Cloninger as assistants are former South Greene standout Whitney Tweed, who also played basketball and softball at King College, and Caroline Laek, a former Daniel Boone standout.

Cloninger becomes only the fourth Lady Falcons basketball coach, but she is the first female to head up the program. She leaves the Lady Hurricanes after posting a 116-103 record in seven seasons and advancing to the TSSAA tournament in the 2011-12 campaign, when her team posted 29 victories.

“I am super excited about being here,” said Cloninger, who was accompanied by her children, Kyle and Hudson. “It was time for me to do something new and fresh. My son plays up here on Clay Minton’s travel team. He told me about the job, and I never expected to get a call, figuring they had someone else in mind. When they called, I was ecstatic.”

The new Lady Falcons coach had faced Volunteer a couple of times and is very familiar with the Big Seven Conference. She hopes to win their share of games, but also sees another side of high school coaches.

“There’s so many life lessons you can learn playing basketball,” she said. “I want my players to be able to look back on their high school career and the coaching staff and say they taught me more than the game of basketball.

“My expectations are that players give me everything they’ve got every day with every ounce of energy they have.”

Among Ailshie’s family on hand were his parents and sons Bryce, a rising sophomore at Wyoming and a member of the track team who competes in the 800m and the 4x4 relay, and Tyler, who played two years for Murray Bartow at East Tennessee State and is currently a graduate assistant with the Lady Bucs.

The new Falcons track coach once held the TSSAA state records in the 800 and 1200m runs, was a member of the United States Junior National team at 17 and was a high school All-American in track.

Ailshie noted that he initially went over to Clinch, where he formed a cross country team that recorded defeats over Volunteer and Cherokee. One of his prized moments came when his team competed at Sugar Hollow against schools like Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill.

“My interest was always more toward track, but the Lord directed me on another career path where I was an administrator for 11 years,” he said.

 “After the meet at Sugar Hollow and during their awards ceremony, Randy Smith, the coach at John Battle, and D-B coach Tom Coughenour recognized the entire Clinch team, a team that was the smallest school in Tennessee had come and competed.

“I had an All-Region runner over there. It’s all about the kids and lifetime experiences and just making a difference in kids’ lives.”

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