November 30, 2004 at 11:57 pm #2044
ORTLAND, Ore. – Clyde Hart, the longtime Baylor University head track & field coach who this year guided his athletes to three Olympic gold medals, on Tuesday was named 2004 Nike Coach of the Year by USA Track & Field. Hart will receive his award at the 2004 Jesse Owens Awards and Xerox Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with the USATF Annual Meeting in Portland, Ore.
With his level disposition, positive outlook and superb mentoring skills, Hart has produced a string of world-beating long sprinters throughout his 41 years at Baylor University. Under him, Baylor athletes have garnered 466 All-America honors, won 13 individual NCAA titles – six of them in the 400 meters – and 14 men’s 4x400m relay crowns. The school owns one women’s 4x400m title as well.
In 2004 Hart added to his legacy by developing 20-year-old Jeremy Wariner into an NCAA 400-meter indoor and outdoor champion, then into an Olympic Trials winner and Olympic gold medalist. Wariner won the 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens with a time of 44.00 seconds, in the process breaking the Baylor school record of 44.20, set in 1990 by world record holder and Clyde Hart-coached Michael Johnson, and running the fastest time in the world since Johnson in 2000. During 2004, Wariner improved his personal best by 1.13 seconds and went from 2003 USA junior runner-up to the class of the Olympic field.
Wariner’s Baylor teammate and fellow NCAA All-American, Darold Williamson, took the baton from Wariner to run anchor on the gold-medal 4x400m relay team in Athens, giving the medal stand a strong Baylor flavor and two more golds for the Bears. Wariner and Williamson – who placed fourth in the 400 at the Olympic Trials – joined with Olympic 400m silver medalist Otis Harris and bronze medalist Derrick Brew to run the second-fastest 4x400m relay time in Olympic history, 2:53.00.
“Anytime you are recognized in your profession, it’s very gratifying, particularly this late in my career,” said the 70-year-old Hart. “I never dreamed I would receive this honor, but I also didn’t dream I would have two kids in the Olympics get gold medals. All of those things work together. If I didn’t have great kids, I wouldn’t have the success I’ve had. This award is the pinnacle of my profession, and I’m thankful to have received it.”
Wariner had spent the entire collegiate season handing off to Williamson, as the pair ran the third and fourth legs all year on Baylor’s outstanding relays. Baylor in 2004 won the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in the 4x400m relay (the school’s 24th consecutive outdoor 4×400 All-American honor under Hart), and broke the collegiate record indoors with a time of 3:03.96. The Big 12 outdoor champion in the 400, Williamson was the only person to defeat Wariner in 2004.
“Over the course of his career, Coach Hart has shown that he is among the best in the world when it comes to developing long sprinters,” said USATF CEO Craig Masback. “Jeremy had by far the most impressive year by a 400-meter runner since Michael Johnson, and Darold and the rest of the Baylor team demonstrate Coach Hart’s ability to develop an entire team, not just one athlete. Coaches like Clyde are vitally important to ensuring that the legacy of Team USA continues.”
“There are very few coaches in the world who have the record of consistency and excellence of Coach Hart,” said John Capriotti, Global Sports Marketing Director for Nike. “Even by his own high standards, 2004 was a remarkable year for him and his athletes. Nike is pleased to present this award to such a deserving coach.”
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