As Lawrence High announced Jack Hood as its new track and field coach Monday afternoon, the new leader declared one of his objectives - a state championship.
"There is only one goal at Lawrence High School," Hood said. "What makes Lawrence High School special to me is that when you walk in the gym, hanging on the wall are 103 state titles. There aren't league champion banners. There aren't any regional runner-up banners."
Hood replaces Scott Stidham, who led the boys team to a state title and the girls to a second-place finish in 2006. Stidham accepted a teaching and coaching position at Liberty High in Jackson, Tenn., to be closer to his wife's family.
"(Hood)'s got some big shoes to fill," LHS athletic director Ron Commons said.
The school held a reception in its cafeteria to name Hood formally as head coach. Several students, teachers and coaches attended and applauded the announcement. Hood then spoke briefly to those gathered.
"I'll try to make it quick," he said, "because I'm pretty sure most of you are only here for the cake."
Despite his humble words, Hood brings an extensive track and field resume to the position. An assistant on the LHS track team for five years, he excelled at both discus and shot put, becoming an indoor and outdoor Heart of America Conference champion in the shot at William Jewell College.
Hood also hails from a track family.
His brother Frank was an All-American distance runner at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; his brother Tom was an all-state distance runner at Ruskin High in Kansas City, Mo., and ran for one year at Harvard University; and his sister, Julie, became an all-state sprinter in Omaha, Neb.
"Somehow I end up as a thrower," Jack Hood said. "Go figure."
Although Jack Hood attended Ruskin, his father, Frank, attended LHS for one year.
"I grew up hearing stories about Lawrence High, and he told me what a special place it was," he said. "He told me how hard everybody worked."
Hood teaches history at Lawrence High and has served as the head sophomore football coach for three years. LHS head football coach Dirk Wedd, whom Hood cited as one of his mentors, said he recognized special qualities in him.
"He has tremendous enthusiasm, and he probably cares about kids as much as anyone I've ever been around in coaching," Wedd said. "He's worked his tail off, and he deserves the opportunity. ... He'll do a great job for us."
Along with a state title, Hood cited a goal of helping his pupils become better people, students and athletes. Regarding the latter goal, both the boys and girls teams return several key contributors from last year's run to state, including Kevin Logan, Andrew Grover and Kelly Renfro.
"With this group of people," Hood said. "I'll take my chances with anyone in the state."
Hood joked that he kept his remarks brief so that his athletes could start preparing for the spring season.
"I can't wait for track season to start," Hood said. "Let's go to work."