6:30 p.m., FRIDAY, April 20, 2012
Baylor's nationally acclaimed track and field program is a step closer to moving to an on-campus facility after the University received a significant lead gift from the family of Lewis and Mary A. Woodall.
Former Baylor track letterman Richard Woodall (1980-81) and his wife, Donna, made the lead gift and one of the largest donations in program history for a new on-campus track stadium in honor of his father and mother, Lewis and Mary Woodall.
"I was blessed with two loving Christian parents that offered constant encouragement to excel at academics, athletics and life in general," said Richard Woodall, a former distance runner who earned his BBA in Finance from Baylor University in December 1980 and a Masters in Economics a year later. "It's only fitting that they be honored as a testament to their love, commitment and generosity to family, friends and church. It is the hope of my family that others will be inspired to follow in tandem."
Baylor's track and field program, which has produced an astounding nine Olympic gold medals, 36 NCAA championships and 606 All-America performances, has used the same off-campus facility for the last 52 years.
Now known as the Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex, the facility first opened in 1960 in South Waco as Baylor Track Stadium and sits in the shadows of Floyd Casey Stadium, just off Clay Street. With football's move to an on-campus training facility three years ago, track and field is now Baylor's only program without a campus presence.
"From a recruiting standpoint - and Baylor track has been so successful through the years - they need something that befits that success," said Woodall, who was a teammate of current Baylor head track and field coach Todd Harbour. "Todd can win over the mommas pretty easily, but the kids
see all these new state-of-the-art facilities. There's definitely a need to compete with other schools." The proposal for an on-campus track facility came out of Baylor Athletics' five-year strategic plan, "Above and Beyond," which was adopted on Sept. 15, 2004. But Deputy Athletics Director Todd Patulski, who chairs the NCAA Division I Track and Field Committee, said, "We really needed someone to kick this off from a fundraising standpoint, and we are appreciative of the Woodall family for doing just that."
Woodall expressed an interest in helping the program four or five years ago, Harbour said, and "this is big, because we needed somebody to step up like this and get the ball rolling."
"He's just great people," Harbour said.
"We are extremely grateful to the Woodall family for this generous gift toward the construction of a new, on-campus track and field complex," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. "We believe this new, state-of-the-art facility will ensure the continued success of our track programs and we look forward to other members of the Baylor family coming alongside the Woodalls to bring this project to fruition."
While additional funding is needed, Patulski said the University has been in talks with Populous, the same company that produced architectural designs for the proposed on-campus football stadium that would be located on the north side of the Brazos River, adjacent to Interstate-35.
"The pressure's on us now," Patulski said. "We've now got to settle on a location and the design of the track stadium, if you will. . . . There are 18 different ways to make a track work, based on the throwing and the fans how you set up the jumps and everything else. Our ultimate goal is to have a nationally competitive track facility for our tradition-rich program."
A native of Atlanta, Ga., Woodall ran under legendary track and field coach Bob Timmons at the University of Kansas before transferring to Baylor in the fall of 1978. He still ranks sixth in the 5,000 meters on Baylor's all-time list with a time of 14 minutes, 15.65 seconds that he ran at the 1981 Southwest Conference Outdoor meet.
Woodall, now based in California, has worked in the oil and gas industry and is now self-employed. He and his wife, Donna, have a daughter, Mary, who will be a freshman at Baylor in the fall.
"Baylor track and field instilled discipline and a competitive spirit into my life that exists still today," Woodall said, "as well as provided life-long friendships and camaraderie with a number of teammates, including Todd Harbour."
The need for others to "Rise Up" during an Olympic year in support of this project is now. If you are interested in getting involved in this new facility, contact Rick Darnell, Doug Smith or Rob Kennedy at 254-710-2561.
Ann Meyers Drysdale, the first high school player selected to the U.S. National team, said Baylor All-American is a "no-brainer" pick for the final spot on this year's U.S. Olympic women's basketball team.
"I'll go on record now, not knowing what USA Basketball is doing, she's on the team," said Meyers Drysdale, who's currently the Phoenix Mercury president and general manager. "Because she's in college, they've got to wait till (the Final Four) is over. And then they'll announce her."
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association named its National Player of the Year award in honor of Meyers Drysdale, with the inaugural award going to Griner at a breakfast Thursday morning.
"The biggest thing I've seen this year is how much she's jumped from last year," Meyers Drysdale said. "Her footwork is much better, obviously her confidence, and the ability to have more shots. Last year, I thought she was still pretty limited. I think Baylor and Kim and her (coaching) staff have done a tremendous job in helping her grow. I see that there's more of a calmness about her this year and a confidence in who she is."
Assuming Grimer is selected for the 12th and final spot on the Olympic team, Meyers Drysdale said the experience will greatly benefit her overall game.
"She's our future," Meyers Drysdale said. "She'll be the rookie. It will be like 1992, when Christian Laetner (was named to the U.S. Olympic men's team). But to me, Brittney is going to have a lot more impact on this team. There's no way that we can't play everybody, and (USA coach Geno Auriemma) knows that. But there's nobody that can touch her."
Getting a taste of the international game, Meyers Drysdale said, Griner will be ready when she comes out next year and eventually plays in Europe. "And that will be where she makes her big statement is when she plays over there."