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McCollum's Column: Tales of champions at Pitts-Delph Awards

Posted: January 22, 2014 - 6:49pm

Various tales of success from the Conway Athletic Awards Commission banquet:

 

Sometimes, you have to be lucky.

When Conway’s Henry Hawk set a world record 60-64 several years ago in the 800 meters at the Senior Olympics, he almost missed the event because of a time mixup.

One of his younger colleagues usually timed his warmup routine with Hawk and missing him on the track, rushed to tell him in the prep arena that his event was coming up. Not realizing that, Hawk hastily got on his togs and ran out onto the track barefoot to avoid being disqualified. He said he got cotton mouth as he was doing a quick warmup and noticed a large water bottle on the front row of the stands.

He said he ran up to a woman beside the water bottle and asked, “M’am can I have a drink?” She said, “Sure, it’s not mine.”

Everything, including a “rabbit” runner who set a fast pace, came together for the Elijah Pitts Award winner for lifetime achievement to set the world record.

 

Sometimes, it’s humbling.

“One day, I was on Cloud 9 (after setting the world record),” said Hawk. “The next day, I was above the clouds flying home. The next day, I was on the ground running again and getting ready for the next race.”

Almost 40 years ago, Joe Mosby, who lived in Conway, received a call for the late Orville Henry, sports editor of the late Arkansas Gazette, to cover the signing of Marvin Delph, one of new coach Eddie Sutton’s first recruits for the University of Arkansas basketball team.

“Marvin was a little shy at the time and signed and got up and left the room,” said Mosby, who earned the Joe B. McGee Award for meritorious service.

“Then, Eddie signed Ron Brewer out of Fort Smith and Jim Counce from Memphis and Sidney Moncrief out of Little Rock the next year and Razorback basketball, which was nothing, took off from there,” Mosby said. “I’d like to think that all started in Conway.”

 

Sometimes, you have to create and be part of the right chemistry.

“We had a coaching staff who were great leaders and more importantly, loved players,” said UCA baseball coach Allen Gum, Marvin Delph recipient for Sportsman of the Year.

After a midseason slump in which they barely made the conference tournament, the Bears righted themselves in the Southland Conference tournament to come out of the losers bracket to win it, and then came out of the losers bracket again to reach an NCAA regional championship game against Mississippi State.

“Our players showed great leadership; I got this award on the backs on other people,” said Gum. “It’s all about looking for people who are into relationships. To me, that’s necessary ... Your relationships with people are the only thing that lasts forever.”

 

Sometimes, a top athlete transcends quickly from an encourgee to an encourager.

When Hendrix’s Elizabeth Krug was 233 points off the leader going into the climactic 800 meters in the NCAA Division III heptathlon, coach Patrick MacDonald kept telling her that there was still a chance — of medaling and an outside chance of winning.

After the final scores were posted several moments after the 800 finish, MacDonald, who was on the far end of the track from the scoreboard, told a colleague, “That looks like Krug at the top.”

It was. She won by seven points, the biggest comeback on the final event in the history of the event.

“Elizabeth did what all competitors usually do when they finish the heptathlon,” said MacDonald. “She went down rolled on the ground and moaned that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. Then, she got up and cheered on her fellow competitors as they finished. In a few moments, I saw her go from a good winner to a good loser to a good champion.”

 

Another thing about Krug as a champion.

Hawk inadvertently left his trophy in the Mabee Center at Central Baptist College. Krug found it and, for several minutes, after almost everyone had left, she and other mother sought out the few stragglers and went the second mile to make sure they could leave the hardware in the right place for Hawk to find it.

For a couple of hours Sunday afternoon, we witnessed the class of champions — often with those little things that don’t show up on scoreboards.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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