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Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blake thrilled to join Legends

Former KU star trying to revive Winston Salem State program

October 31, 2006

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She looked at the list of names with whom she will be honored Wednesday at "KU Track Legends & Friends," a benefit for the Bert Nash Center at the Holidome, and she liked the company she will be keeping.

Halcyon "Tudy" Blake rattled off some of the names: Billy Mills, Bob Timmons, Theo Hamilton, Jim Ryun, Al Oerter, Wes Santee.

"I feel honored to be amongst them," Blake said by phone from her office at Winston Salem State University, where she is the men's and women's cross country and track coach. "I thought I was a legend in my own mind."

No, but Blake does spend her "spare" time trying to recruit athletes, many of whom consider themselves legends in their own minds.

"These are different times altogether from when I was competing for Kansas," said Blake, whose name was McKnight when she competed for KU. "It was all about winning and competing then. Now, even when I'm recruiting, everyone wants to have things handed to them. They all want to know, 'How much (scholarship) money will I get if I come run for you?' How about you do something first and then worry about what you're going to get?"

Blake still holds the KU women's outdoor track record in the long jump with a distance of 21 feet, 101â4 inches, set at the Kansas Relays in 1982. It also is the Kansas Relays record.

If Blake were a legend in her own mind, the Kansas Relays long jump simply would be called the long jump. Instead, it was named after her in 1995.

"I talked to Timmy quite a bit then," she said. "It will be great to see Timmy, who was coaching the men when I was at Kansas, and it will be great seeing Theo, who was my coach."

Winston Salem, a North Carolina school that recently joined the NCAA Division I level, stayed in state to hire Blake away from Methodist College. Blake accepted the challenge of reviving a program that had been dormant for five years.

Blake has been coaching track at the high school or college level for nearly 25 years. Asked if she preferred coaching men or women, Blake didn't hesitate.

"It all depends on the individual, but for me, at some point, being a female coach it became easier for me to coach the men than the women," said Blake, noted for her ever-present smile. "Girls can be so catty. I think back to when I was running and ask myself if I was that way, and I don't think so."

Blake said that when she was coaching at Methodist, her team competed in a national championship meet, and Mills was the keynote speaker. She said she was looking forward to hearing him speak again.

"What a wonderful story," Blake said. "He's truly a legend. I think one thing that's so nice about getting together is we're all from different time periods. Being at Kansas was such an honor because KU had such a legacy. I would love to see Kansas back on the map as a powerhouse in track. Kansas has had such a fantastic athletic program, and I try to keep tabs as much as possible. Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk."

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