Robert Spencer served as head boys’ track and field coach at Carlisle High School for eight seasons, from 1958-1965. During that time, the boys program experienced unprecedented success, including back-to-back third-place team finishes at the state meet in 1961 and 1962.
After finishing eighth at the state indoor meet in 1961, Spencer led the school to its first ever district championship and had 13 boys qualify for the state outdoor meet in Ames. The Wildcats would go on to finish third in a field of 95 schools competing in the outdoor state meet that spring. In addition to numerous individual place-winners, Coach Spencer led the distance medley relay team of Les Lane, Lynn Owens, Jack Cooper and Tom Hardin to the school’s first-ever relay team state title.
The Wildcats would follow the most successful season in school history with an equally impressive season in 1962. The Mile Medley relay team of Jack Cooper, Bucky Arnold, Ken Laverty and Tom Hardin would be crowned state indoor champions and the Wildcats would finish fourth as a team in the state indoor meet. The boys proceeded to qualify 10 events for the state outdoor meet and finish third as a team with a state champion individual long jump performance by fellow CHS Hall of Famer Jack Cooper.
Spencer, who also taught and coached basketball, football, softball and started cross country at Carlisle, was responsible for starting the Wildcat Relays, where over 600 athletes from 35 different schools competed. The Relays are still going strong today and is one of the longest continually run home meets in the state. Coach Spencer also literally built Carlisle’s first track with the help of the physical education students.
Following his time at Carlisle, Spencer went on to coach women’s basketball, track and cross country at the collegiate level, starting three different women’s programs at those schools. He won a national championship with the women’s basketball team at William Penn in 1981 before going on to coach at Fresno State. Spencer and his wife, Pat, recently moved back to the Carlisle area where his career began 55 years ago.
Bill Betterton was a three-time state champion during his short time at CHS. An ankle injury his senior year most certainly kept him from adding to that amazing total. Moving to Carlisle his junior year after winning a state 110-meter high hurdle title for Pleasantville, Betterton made an immediate impact on the track & field program. He was a four-time conference champion in 1991 and qualified for the Drake Relays in two events, winning the 110-meter high hurdles and placing second in the high jump. The multi-talented performer qualified for state in four events that year and emerged as state champion in three of them: the high jump, 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter dash. He also placed third in the 200 meters to cap an amazing performance at the state meet. The Wildcats finished fifth as a team that spring.
Betterton headed into his senior season with high expectations to repeat in all events. He captured three conference titles and qualified for the Drake Relays in three events, repeating as champion in the 110-meter high hurdles in a Relays-record 14.14 that held up for 17 years. That mark earned him an invitation to compete in the Keebler International Prep Track Meet in Illinois where the top eight qualifiers in the world squared off. Betterton finished fourth wearing the red and gold. His senior campaign ended in disappointing fashion when a severe ankle injury prevented him from competing at the state meet after qualifying in four events. Betterton set an unheard of seven school records while in high school, three of which still stand: the high jump at 6-foot 7.5 inches, the 400 meters in 49.36 seconds and the 110-meter hurdles in a blistering 13.74 seconds.
Betterton went on to run at Baylor following graduation and currently lives in Pleasantville and works for Vermeer. He has three children: Lincoln, Skylynn and Billy.
After qualifying for the state track and field championships his sophomore year in the 110-meter high hurdles, Brian Keeney returned the next year to capture the state title in his specialty race. He followed that performance with a state runner-up finish his senior year. The standout hurdler earned three conference championships in high school, two in the 110-meter high hurdles and one in the toughest race in prep track and field, the 400-meter hurdles. He added a conference runner-up title in the shot as a senior. Keeney, a four-year letter winner in track and field for the Wildcats, qualified for the Drake Relays his junior and senior years, finishing fourth in the 110-meter high hurdles his senior campaign. He helped lead the Wildcats to three straight Heart of Iowa Conference titles (1984, 85, 86).
Kenney was a multi-sport standout athlete at Carlisle, also earning first-team all-state football honors as a running back. He earned 14 letters during his high school career, playing football, baseball, basketball, wrestling and starring in track & field. He also earned all-conference honors in baseball and football and was a top-five rusher in all classes his senior football season. Following his prep career, Brian ran and played football at Morningside and Simpson. He has coached at Carlisle for over 20 years, serving as hurdle mentor for both boys and girls track programs. Recently, two of his shuttle-hurdle relay teams claimed state titles and he also coached 2017 graduate Dallas Wright to a 400-meter hurdle state title. He was named state of Iowa Assistant Coach of the Year for his efforts.
Kenney lives in Hartford with his wife Vickie. They have a son Austin and two daughters, Payton and Katelyn.
The Wildcats Athletic Hall of Fame is displayed in the high school commons.