Darlington’s all-time best athlete – Don Threlkeld
By Butch Dale
In the late 1960s, as a student at Purdue, I also coached a Darlington Little League team in the summer. On many occasions when I arrived at the little kids’ ball diamond, I saw Roy Threlkeld’s truck parked at the high school baseball field. And there was Roy, bat in hand, hitting grounders and fly balls to his son, Donnie Threlkeld. Roy spent hundreds of hours with Don at that baseball diamond, with the motto “practice makes perfect” foremost on his mind. Don also had a lot of help through the years from his older brother, Ron Threlkeld, an exceptional athlete in his own right. Well, all of that practice paid off, not just in baseball, but in every sport, as Don Threlkeld is considered by most Darlington fans to be the best all-around athlete to have graduated from DHS.
As a youngster, Don recalled admiring coaches such as Marion “Runt” Maxwell, Al Niswonger, Raymon Brown and Emerson Mutterspaugh. In junior high and high school, Don told me that he was blessed to have been coached by Galen Smith, Emerson Mutterspaugh, Gren Lefebvre, Jim Spencer and Dave Nicholson. Some of the athletes he admired, in addition to his brother, were Bob Mullen, Jerry Gick, George Cox, Charlie Bowerman, Tom and Dick VanArsdale, Rick Mount, and yes, even yours truly . . . Thanks, Don!
In basketball, Don averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore, 21 ppg as a junior, and 21 ppg his senior year in 1969. The Indians won the Montgomery County Tourney all three years, and went undefeated during the regular season in 1968 and ’69. In 1969, the Indians had to play in the Lebanon Sectional. In the most exciting high school game that I ever witnessed, the “Big D” pumped in two long-range bombs in the remaining seconds to defeat Speedway 56-54 to capture Darlington’s first and only Sectional title. Don finished his high school basketball career as the second leading all-time scorer in total points behind Rich Douglas, and first all-time in point-per-game average. He was easily elected to the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame, and was selected as one of the five best players on the Modern Team (1947-1971) by all of the fans in the county.
Don was also an outstanding athlete on the track team, participating in the 100 and 220 yard dash, low hurdles and 880 yard relay . . . even throwing the shot put as a senior!
After high school, Don attended Milligan College (now Milligan University), where he started all four years as point guard, averaging 18.5 points per game. He finished as the 5th all-time leading scorer in total points and career average . . . and first all-time in career assists! In fact, he led the nation (NAIA) with 379 assists (11.5 assists per game) during the 1970-71 season. In baseball, Don was the starting shortstop for three years, also winning numerous awards. He was named to the Milligan Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
After college, Don taught and coached for a few years before entering the business world, and then worked for FEDEX, before retiring in 2012. He and his wife, Noreen, have been married for 48 years, and they have two daughters and a son, in addition to four grandkids. They reside in the mountain area of Drake, Colorado, and according to Don, “We are living our life-long dream, and we love every minute of it!”
Finally, Don told me that he really enjoyed competing in sports, especially winning in every sport in which he participated. He is grateful for the excellent coaches and his outstanding and unselfish teammates . . . and the tremendous support his teams had from the Darlington community. And I can speak for this community, we were blessed to have had the opportunity to watch Don Threlkeld’s sports accomplishments. Don, you were the greatest!
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.