A 1988 graduate of Carroll County High School, Rhonda Quesenberry Hartley was one of the greatest all-around athletes to come through Hillsville. A three-sport star in track, basketball and volleyball, she capped a terrific high school career her senior season by winning a state championship in the high jump with a leap of 5-feet, 6-inches. The week before, she just missed setting a Region IV record by a half inch with a jump of 5-feet, 4-inches, before shattering the school record in the state championships, where she teamed with Rebecca Russell Buchanan to help the Cavaliers finish second as a team in the state.
As a basketball player, Quesenberry Hartley used those jumping abilities to be an absolute terror on the boards. As part of some highly-ranked Lady Cavalier basketball teams, she was a two-team All-New River District selection and led the Timesland with 17 rebounds per game one season.
This week, Quesenberry Hartley talks about winning a state championship, what it takes to be a good rebounder, and if she shared her three brothers’ love for the rock band KISS.
What year did you graduate from Carroll County High School? 1988
Family members: Husband: James Hartley; Daughter: Morgan Hartley; Son: Jeremiah Jackson
Current occupation: Office Manager for James Hartley Construction; Hartley Dry Basements & Crawls spaces.
You are one of just a handful of Carroll County High School athletes ever to win a state title. What was the feeling like to capture the state championship in the high jump your senior year? After working so hard for that I was extremely excited. It took a while to sink in.
A week earlier, you won the Region IV title with a high jump of 5-feet, 4-inches, which was a half-inch away from setting a new Region IV record at the time. But at the state championships, you shattered that mark and set a school record with a high jump of 5-feet, 6-inches to win the state. How do you think you were able to have your best jump on the biggest stage possible? I focused really hard on that jump, hit my strides and jump point perfect. Also with the help of Mr. Anderson, he helped me with my steps.
Between you and Rebecca Russell Buchanan, the Lady Cavaliers placed second out of 82 teams at the State Meet your senior year. How much did it help the both of you having each other to help push one another to get better? Very much, Rebecca was a tough one to keep up with.
What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you during athletics at CCHS? Tripping over my own feet and falling in front of a large crowd.
You ran track and played basketball and volleyball at Carroll County. Which sport was your favorite and why? Basketball was my favorite. I love the fast pace & team effort and also I loved playing basketball for the start.
In an old article in The Carroll News, former CCHS coach Ron Quesenberry called you “the best rebounder in the world.” Certainly, being a state champion high jumper helps with grabbing rebounds, but why else would you say you were so exceptional at cleaning the boards? Being 6-foot tall certainly helped, but it seemed like I could judge where the ball was going to come off the rim well. I also had good coaching by Ron Quesenberry and Bill Burcham. He worked with me all the time. And coach Larry Dalton kept up with my rebounds and he told how many I needed to keep my average up to stay at the top in the Timesland.
Most of the basketball teams you played on were highly ranked in the state polls and were number one in the Timesland a large portion of your career. What do you think made the Lady Cavs so successful back then? Great coaching and everyone on the team supported each other.
Are you able to follow the Lady Cavaliers nowadays, and if so, what do you make of the success they’ve been able to achieve consistently over the years? I am not able to follow them very much, but when I can I’m happy to see them doing well.
Living in Boone, how crazy did the townfolk go in 2007 when Appalachian State pulled off the greatest upset in college football history over the University of Michigan? They are still going crazy. The town was in a frenzy.
How much would you say having three brothers toughened you up for sports? It helped a lot. It really helped with my older brother David pushing me so hard.
Speaking of your brothers, if you are anything like them, would it be safe to say you had an unhealthy obsession with the rock band KISS growing up? It’s not safe to say that. I hated Kiss. I guess I was the only sane one in the family.
Aside from winning the state championship in the high jump, what was your favorite memory in athletics? Seeing my track jersey retired.