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One of the highlights for me this week was the opportunity to speak with Tucker McLaughlin, a longtime sportswriter for the News and Record of South Boston in Halifax County.
A phone call to the News and Record office confirmed what I had heard about McLaughlin's undergoing three rounds of chemotherapy as the result of a brain tumor.
"He's still working" a colleague told me and I spoke with Tucker (at right) later in the afternoon -- twice in fact, including a second call in which we discussed the Major League Baseball draft, where University of Virginia pitcher Andrew Abbott had been selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round.
Abbott was a baseball standout at Halifax County High School, where he also was a swimmer of some distinction.
Some of the outstanding Halifax County athletes covered by McLaughlin included UVa running back Barry Word, the 1985 ACC rushing champion; and Tyrone Davis, whose 2,153 receiving yards rank third in school history. Three Words played at Virginia and earned a combined nine varsity letters.
AS BEST AS I CAN REMEMBER, McLaughlin didn't start covering Virginia athletics until 1990, the year that Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the country. We were headed down to the field from the parking lot one day when he shared a little bit of his background.
He had not attended Virginia but had UVa ties. I'm not sure what he was covering at the time but two of his major beats were high schools and auto racing, which was big in his part of the state. It wasn't long before he started to show up regularly at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State., as well as NASCAR races.
To his credit, he didn't hesitate to hire "stringers" when he had a conflict. He didn't work in a particularly large market but didn't want his "beats" to go uncovered.
In an oral commitment that escaped my notice, North Cross swimmer Daniel Byrnes is headed to Johns Hopkins. Byrnes holds North Cross records for the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events.
"This is perhaps the deepest and fastest class in Hopkins swimming history," said Hopkins men's and women's coach Scott Armstrong, formerly the assistant men's coach at Stanford.
The Hopkins men have finished fourth in the Division III national championships three times under Armstrong.
■ Virginia men's lacrosse signee Matt Nunes, from Houston, is rated the No. 1 goalie prospect in the country. Alex Rode, UVa's goalie in two NCAA championship games, was a senior this past season.
Nunes was rated the No. 3 prospect in the country overall and UVa also was able to get the No. 8 recruit, attackman Griffin Schultz from Deerfield (Mass.) Academy.
Virginia Tech has taken commitments from nine of the top 37 football prospects in the state, as rated by 247 Sports, with a possible commitment from 6-foot-4, 270-pound offensive lineman Gunner Givens from Lord Botetourt at No. 4 overall. He announces at 6 pm on Friday, June 16th.
Players on that top 40 list who have committed to UVa are offensive lineman Brody Meadows from Graham High School in Bluefield, wide receiver Leon Haughton from Benedictine in Richmond and wide receiver Jaiven Plummer from Episcopal in Alexandria, a UVa target in recent years.
When I research the ancient archives of the South Boston News and Record for South Boston Speedway stories, Tucker McLaughlin's bylines not only appear on the stories, his credit also appears in most photo bylines. I'll forever have a picture in my mind of Tucker climbing the steps to the old Richmond International Raceway press box atop the former turn 1 Veranda grandstand. He huffed and puffed because while the other writers were carrying the latest 1990s model laptops in little black satchels, Tucker was struggling to carry this huge and heavy combo all-in-one desktop computer with screen that evidently also sat on his office desk. It was amazing to see that big monster plugged in on the 2nd row press box counter where Tucker always sat. Tucker was sure faithful. He ran all of my many news releases and he covered all of our events, be they NASCAR Cup races or a lower class Late Model Stock Car event paired with the Yankee modified circuit. Throw in USAC Silver Crown and Midget races as well as NASCAR Busch Series events andTucker made the Richmond press box climb carrying that monster desktop computer many times each racing season. Here's hoping that Tucker's treatment plan brings him comfort.
Via comment or replies on social media, I find myself regretting more and more that I never met Tucker. Maybe I can convince Doug Doughty to meet me somewhere and we can go to South Boston one day soon...