Georgia woman is first to rank in all masters T&F events!

Lydia is ranked in 22 individual events, a historic first.

Lydia Woods-Howze won two gold and four silver medals at the WMA regionals a couple weeks ago in Clermont, Florida. Nice haul. But you don’t know the half of it. Now 55, Lydia, who lives in Smyrna, Georgia, only began competing seriously in track in 2006. But unlike many newbies, she chose a goal that had never been accomplished. She called it the Quest: Be ranked in all 22 individual events contested in masters track. “I successfully finished my Quest on August 2, 2008, after completing the pole vault event at the Southeast Sports Festival held at Florida State University,” Lydia wrote me last month. “It was a satisfying end to a personal challenge.” (Here is her listing of events and results.) Lydia sent me a note to introduce herself, and I followed up with a Q&A. This is a stunning achievement. And despite the existence of double decathletes in the masters ranks, Lydia’s accomplishment is historic.

To Boldly Go
By Dr. Lydia A. Woods-Howze
“To boldly go where no man has gone before” is a phrase that Trekkies are all too familiar with. It is part of the mission statement for the famous Star Trek crew. When I signed on to USATF Masters Track & Field in 2006, I never thought I would be embarking on an adventure that would take me to places that “no one has ever gone.”
In just three years I have continued to venture into unknown areas of Masters Track & Field completely unknown to me.
Oh, what fun it has been. It’s like being in the perfect physical education class. It feels great to be in my 50s, in the sun and healthy, able to run, jump and throw like a kid. The memories of my youth flood in on me, on those bright and sunny days at a track meet. It is perfection for me, the physical educator who has taught for 33 years.
There was no track and field in my elementary school, only P.E. classes — where I first learned that I had the fastest 40-yard-dash time in the school, including the boys. I was so excited. I began having dreams of becoming an Olympic runner.
There also was no track and field for girls at my high school. But when I got to college, I immediately went out for the team. I ran in one meet and got a first-place ribbon in the 440 but couldn’t continue running because I had a newborn son to take care of and college classes to attend. So the dream of Olympic glory was put on the back burner for 30 something years.
With a doctorate in kinesiology (the study of human movement), four children and three grandchildren, at age 55, I am perfectly situated to reinstate those Olympic dreams. I am no longer the “fastest kid in school,” but I can do something that not many dream of doing.
In 2008, I ventured on a Quest to be the first person to be nationally ranked in (22) single events in USATF Track and Field, in any age group. I successfully finished my Quest on August 2, 2008, after completing the pole vault event at the Southeast Sports Festival held at Florida State University. It was a satisfying end to a personal challenge.
I had been trying for over a year to get someone to teach me to pole vault –and also to find a pole and a place to practice. . . .
Unlike the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, there were no flashing cameras or tremendous applause from the stands, no news reporters or autograph seekers. There was only a quiet unexplainable joy and satisfaction for a personal Quest completed.

Here’s my Q&A with the amazing Lydia: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Woods-Howze: I was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois.
What sports did you do as a kid? What were your all-time bests or major accomplishment?
As a kid I cycled extensively. On the weekends I was in a bowling league and on Sundays after church I went roller skating. One Christmas my mom gave my father a gift of a 9-foot slate bed billiard table and at 9 years old I learned to play quite well. We also had a Ping-Pong table in our basement and all the neighborhood kids came over to play. Of course I couldn’t let anyone beat me!
There were no sports for girls at my high school, but I became a swim leader for gym classes and a lifeguard and took up tennis in my senior year.
In college, I played one season as second seed on the tennis team, and one season of field hockey (left wing position). I took up racquetball in college and played in local tournaments and in 1978 won the local, then regional tournament, and went on to become runner-up in the national NCCA competition. This was my only claim to athletic fame along with many local wins in tennis singles tournaments.
How did you get back into track? When and where?
I never ran track in high school or college. I was department chair of Health and Physical Education at Spelman College and was teaching activities classes such as badminton, fencing, archery, tennis, aerobic swim, fitness walking, bowling and weight training, etc. I participated with my classes, but was not really active competitively in sports.
One day, a colleague encouraged me to enter the 2005 Atlanta Senior Olympics. To stop him from nagging me, I sent in the application. I signed up for the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard breaststroke, 100-meter dash, shot put, billiards and bowling. I won two golds, two silvers, one bronze medal and it was a life-changing day. If I could do this with little to no training, what could I do if I really worked at it?
I could not even run one time around the track. I was disappointed in how I had let myself go, particularly as a physical educator. I began run/walking three miles a day and set a goal of competing in the Atlanta Women’s Triathlon in August, which was three months away. I completed the triathlon in less than 2 hours — 400-yard swim, 13-mile bike and 3.1-mile run. Finishing really encouraged me to continue running, and in September I ran a 10K and a 5K road race. By the end of the year, I had lost 35 pounds, gained confidence, was running 5 to 6 miles five days a week.
I began track and field in 2006 at the age of 52. My first track meet was in April 2006. I entered seven events at the USATF Southeast Regional Championships at Savannah State University — 100, 200, 400, long jump, shot, discus and javelin. I won six golds and one silver.
In 2006, one track meet led to another and between Senior Olympic competition and 5K and 10K road races I won 105 medals.
I joined the Atlanta Track Club in 2006, too, and went to my first USATF National Championship that August. My teammates needed a second alternate for the 4×100 relay so they put my name down. At the last minute, two people dropped out and they needed me to run. We won gold and set an American record. I also took a fourth in the discus and sixth in javelin. I was stunned and awed at being at a national competition. At the end of 2006, I was ranked in 12 USATF track and field events.
In September, I entered the Georgia Senior Olympics, the Illinois Senior Olympics and in December the Florida Senior Olympics. 2006 was the qualifying year for the National Senior Olympics, which was being held in Louisville, KY in 2007. (See attached Profile)
I qualified for the nationals in nine sports and 20 events. I didn’t know that you are only allowed to compete in two sports, so I chose track and field and racquetball. (100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, shot, discus, javelin, hammer, high jump, long jump, triple jump, 4×100 relay). I won a silver medal in triple jump, bronze medal in 4×100 relay, fifth-place place ribbons in high jump and 1500, sixth-place ribbons in long jump and racquetball, and eighth-place ribbons in hammer and 800.
How did you settle on the Quest?
I am a multi-sport athlete. I am competent in 16 competitive sports. As a physical education teacher for 33 years I have taught 32 different sport skill classes on the high school and college levels. I am grounded in the beginning skills for these sports. This puts me in a unique position and has given me a unique background.
In 2005, I took the first steps back to an active sports life.
In 2006, I was swept away by track and field, Senior Olympics and road racing. I was having fun and spreading my athletic wings. As the year was progressing, I had won so many medals I decided to set a goal. I was going to be 53 years old so I set a goal of 53 medals. By midyear I surpassed that goal and set a new goal of 75 medals. When I passed that goal I had 86 medals.
Finally, I wondered about setting the goal to 100+ medals. I polled family and friends and found great encouragement. I discovered masters track and field rankings and found that I was ranked in 12 events.
In 2007, I planned a calendar of meets and events I wanted to compete in. I set 12 goals, started a sponsorship program to help me get to the National Senior Olympics, USATF nationals in Orono, Maine, and to the world championships in Italy. I didn’t reach all the goals, but I accomplished many of them. I added new events in 2007 (mile, 80-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, pentathlon and superweight throw). I won 104 medals.
In 2008, the idea of the Quest took shape. Taking up the hurdles at 54 gave me a great deal of self-confidence. Watching other athletes and experiencing the challenge of each event made me want to try them all. The Quest appealed to my sense of multi-sport fascination. I know I will probably never be No. 1 in any event. That is not where my talents are, so I wanted to find my place in track and field and multi-events, an area I think I can claim.
So I did some research and decided to add the events I was lacking — 3000, 5000, 10,000, steeplechase and pole vault). I was ranked in 18 events in 2007 and only needed to add these five and bring up my times and marks to the top (25).
Among the women I found who were competing in 15 events — one woman competing in 13 events and Phil Raschker with 12 events. Rob Duncanson had 12 events.
Tell me about your career evolution? Where do you teach now?
Graduated from University of Illinois in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree (Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance)
Master of Science Degree in 1985, (Physical Education with a specialization in Health) from Chicago State University.
Doctorate in Education 1991 (specialization in Kinesiology and Sports Pedagogy)
University of Georgia
I taught for 12 years at the high school level in the Chicago suburbs, and was head coach of girls track, badminton and tennis and assistant coach of girls volleyball.
In college, I was an Illinois certified referee for girls track, field hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, softball and swimming and diving, and basketball.
After graduating with my doctorate, I taught at the University of Central Arkansas, then at the University of Arkansas, Spelman College and Atlanta Metropolitan College. I presently, teach at Morehouse College and am adjunct professor at Beulah Heights University here in Atlanta, Georgia.
Presently, I am a seminary student at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) working on a Master of Divinity Degree and a Master of Arts in Christian Education Degree. I am called to a unique ministry that uses my physical education background and my biblical teaching to encourage, inspire and educate people about the value of physical activity, healthy eating and spirituality.
I credit my accomplishments to my belief in God as he uses my athletic accomplishments to inspire others.
Do you have a family supporting you? Husband, kids, cat or dog?
I was just married on May 3, 2008. I met my husband, Reginald Howze, at the 2007 Georgia Senior Olympics. He was the overall winner of the 5K and I won gold in my age group. I went over to congratulate him and we started talking and the rest is history. On our wedding day, we ran a 5K road race and married in the afternoon. He is a marathon runner and I have introduced him to USATF events and Senior Olympics. He has been running the 800, 1500, 3000, 5000 and 10,000 events.
He completely supports my athletic abilities, and of course we run together. He is an instructor for a senior walking group and we have started a Ministry of Inspirational Speaking to Seniors, encouraging them to exercise and eat healthy. We are both vegetarians.
I have four grown children and grandchildren who support and encourage me.
Which event do you consider your best? ( If you focused on one event, which would it be?
Triple jump for the single event and decathlon for the combined event.
In our rankings page, I note a lot of pretty pedestrian marks.
I have 127 reported results from 2006 to August 2008. Ten rankings are in the top 5 for my age group. Eighteen rankings are in the top 10, and six rankings are from 11 to 20. I have had no formal coaching or training. All the events in track and field are new to me. I did not run track in high school or college and just starting at 52 has been a slight disadvantage. But now that I have experienced each event and have been steadily improving, I am excited about the future.
I have just finished my first year of teaching at Morehouse College. This year I will be working with head coach Willie Hill. He will be helping me to improve my times and marks. I also now have access to a fully equipped track and field facility. My goal for 2009 is to bring all my marks to the All-American Standard of Excellence.
What was the most events you ever did in a single day? When and where?
It was one of the most memorable track and field days for me — the Port City Masters Inaugural Meet, October 14, 2006, in Birmingham, Alabama. I did 17 events in one day. (100, 200, 400, 800, high, long and triple jumps, shot, discus, javelin, hammer, weight and weight pentathlon. I won 13 gold medals.
Have you shared this do-all-the events story with anyone else? If so, who?
I emailed that same story and rankings list to you, National Masters News, and Her Sports magazine. Also I emailed the rankings to Jim and Joyce Hite, the captains of the Atlanta Masters Track & Field Team. Our banquet is coming up and he hopes to mention the accomplishment at the Atlanta Track Club Banquet and to mention the accomplishment in the Wing Foot magazine.
You were the first to respond and I haven’t heard from Masters News or Her Sports Magazine yet. Her Sports Magazine did an article on me in their Jan/Feb 2007 issue and I was just giving them information if they wanted to do a follow-up story.
Morehouse College wrote an article on me in the College News Report December issue and I will be following up with this information.
I am attaching the Her Sports article and the Morehouse article.

Here is Lydia, with photos taken by Monty Rand Photography at 2007 Orono nationals, Photo Album (as 2008 USATF South Carolina Masters Champion), David Ortiz Photography (2006 Florida Senior Olympics) and William Terry (medals on javelin).

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September 13, 2008

67 Responses

  1. Matt - September 14, 2008

    Has any Masters Male achieved the all American standards in at least 10 events? (in the same year) I have never seen it done, just curious.
    I think a strong middle distance runner with a bit of decathlete in him may have a shot.

  2. Thomas Fahey - September 14, 2008

    Remarkable. My body had trouble tolerating one event

  3. Grant Lamothe - September 14, 2008

    To Matt:
    I know several decathletes who can or could, if they so chose to register their marks, attain the All American Standard in 10 events or more in one year. It’s an amazing accomplishment indeed.
    to Dr. Lydia:
    Congrats on your recent marriage. And congrats on your accomplishments in all those track and field events. I’ve done (or tried to do) all those events you have done and know how hard it is to do them all well (I certainly can’t)! Congratulations, you are an inspiration for us all. In many ways.
    Lydia, I encourage you to participate in the USA Masters Decathlon next July in Seattle. It would be awesome to see you there!
    -Grant Lamothe

  4. Ruthlyn Greenfield-Webster, RN - September 14, 2008

    CONGRATULATIONS Lydia!! What a FANTASTIC accomplishment…in addition to ALL your other accomplishments both on and off the field.

  5. Lydia Woods-Howze - September 14, 2008

    To Ruthlyn, Thomas and Grant:
    Thanks for the encouragement and praise! It’s people like you that embody the spirit of Masters Sports and the thing I like most about competing … the great people that I meet!
    To Grant:
    I would love to participate in the Decathlon. It is already on my list for 2009. The only thing that was holding me back was the pole vault, but now that I have a pole and some coaching and by the way it was (Phil Raschker who sold me three of her used poles) do you think a little something rubbed off!
    Next year, I would liked to add all the combined events to my “Quest” I’ve got marks already in the pentathlon and the weight pentathlon and I can’t wait to do the Heptathlon and Decathlon all in the same year. I’ll be looking for the Funds in 2009.
    Lydia Woods-Howze

  6. Michael Walker - September 14, 2008

    To Matt: I am sure that Emil Pawlik can [probably has] and let’s not forget another Georgia athlete by the name of Phil Raschker who probably has made the rankings in ten events in one meet.
    To Lydia, Congratulations. Like most of us, I celebrate if I make the rankings in one event.

  7. Henry McCladdie - September 15, 2008

    To: Dr. Woods
    If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.
    William Arthur Ward
    Henry McCladdie

  8. earl thomas - September 15, 2008

    congrats Dr. Woods you are truly a very special woman with a wonderful heart and many talents. Thank you for sticking by myside and working with me.

  9. Alexander Lakes - September 15, 2008

    Dr. Woods you are an inspiration to me. You showed me the power of hard work and determination. Thank you.

  10. Yohance Salmon - September 15, 2008

    To: Dr Howze
    You are and inspiration to all of us. “Your only challenge is in the mirror”-unknow. Keep up the good work.

  11. Brandon Carter - September 15, 2008

    Congrats Dr. Woods,
    Your hard work has paid off and now you stand above all others within the track and field community. I look forward to seeing more accomplishments from you in the near future!

  12. Desmond Delk - September 15, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    This is an example of what persistence is. The goal of physical educators is to instill in people attitudes of lifetime physical health. You optimized that idea.
    Desmond Delk

  13. WINDSORALEJHANDRO VEGA JR - September 15, 2008

    The Best Is Yet Dr.L.WOODS-howze
    Blessings to you Young Bishop!
    Congratulations my sister in Christ. May the Lord grant you an abundance of mercy, love, grace, strength and favor to pursue your purpose with passion, power and perseverance in track & field, knowing that this next year will be the best you’ve experienced as a result of drawing closer to God and following His plan for your life. Surround yourself with those who will celebrate the gift you are and the value that you bring to their lives, and expect to accomplish all that is in your heart as God directs your path.
    Windsoralejhandro A. Vega Jr

  14. Raymond Johnson - September 15, 2008

    Congrats Dr. Woods you are truly an inspiration to all. you are in great shape and you look great, keep up the good work.

  15. Benjamin Greene - September 15, 2008

    Congradulations Dr. Woods,
    All your hard work and effort has paid off and you should be proud of yourself. May God continue to bless you in all of your endeavors.

  16. Ahmad Dowell - September 16, 2008

    Congratulations Dr. Woods on accomplishing your Dreams and being ranked in all 22 events .

  17. david hughes - September 16, 2008

    i didnt kno you was this fast

  18. Lorraine Tucker - September 16, 2008

    I knew you were on a quest when we first met;however, I did not realize it was such a challenge.
    Super. Have fun with the next one.

  19. Rondell Griffith - September 17, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    I truly believe you to be an inspiration to many here in the US and in the International arena, with regards to your quest and the completion thereof! I would like to formally congratulate you on your achievements as well as on that big step you made this summer to becoming a wife!
    Your feat is a testament to the fact that one can achieve anything they set their minds on, and through this we can see that we should not settle for mediocrity when greatness is just beyond the horizon!

  20. Janis Lane-Ewart - September 17, 2008

    Hey Lydia,
    Great to hear about your achievements. It’s really funny because I was telling a close friend last Friday night about our swimming experience in high school. I told her about Ms. Soso, how you and I swam at ITT’s pool and my introduction to Carl Sandburg village as a result of your connection with a friend who lived there. Wow, way to go Ms. Lindblomite!

  21. Piled Higher & Deeper - September 17, 2008

    I love Dr. Woods-Houze’s enthusism and spirit in her new found sport, but please…in 20 of the 22 events all she did was show up. It just demonstrates the lack of competitiveness in women’s masters track.
    I’d be impressed if she put up some average marks, but she’s either ranked last or next to last in 13 of the 22 events.
    She at least met the AA standard in the long jump and came close in the other jumping events and the 300 hurdles. I’d be really impressed if she focused on her strengths and posted some quality marks.
    Just doesn’t seem too hard to be the only competitor in a race, get a gold medal, and post a mediocre performance.
    As an accomplished educator I’m sure she values the effort and hard work that is part of a passing or exceptional grade. If we all got A’s for just showing up….we’d all have our PHD’s.

  22. Jordan Bell - September 17, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    I was in awe the entire time I was reading this article. You are auch an inspiration to everyone! Not only in sports, but in anything in life. Although I have only had you for about four weeks now as my tennis instructor, you just seem so driven at everything you do and always seem happy and thankful about life in general. I am truly inspired. Keep up the good work!
    Jordan Bell

  23. Frank Bryant - September 17, 2008

    Dr Woods,
    GOD is showing you a world of favor. You are truly an inspiration to us all! I wish you much continued success in all of your future endevors.
    – Frank Bryant

  24. Mary Harada - September 18, 2008

    I commend Lydia Woods for her competitiveness and enthusiasm. I am not sure what “being ranked” means – does one have to do well enough to be in the top 10 of those competing in an event? In my age group 70-74 – it is fairly easy to be ranked in most events – indeed turn up and do it – as there are not too many of us still showing up. And while medal counts are great – why is it that multi-event athletes get just one medal (if fortunate) for participating in a pent etc – but if you compete in the same events separately – you get a separate medal for each one and can brag that you got 6 – 7 medals at whatever meet!
    I do not want to take away from Lydia Woods accomplishments – as it certainly took a great deal of time, effort, and determination to participate in all the events. She is to be commended for that. I hope that she will continue to improve upon her performance over the years.
    The comments about the lack of competitiveness in women’s track sound a bit mean spirited. Is that a problem created by Lydia Woods? I think not – one can lay that at the feet of those who refused to provide females with the equal opportunities for participating in sports that were given as a “right” to males in this country until Title IX. Even after the passage of Title IX – many schools and colleges had to be dragged kicking and screaming to comply. And how many universities have blamed Title IX for having to drop some sports in order to provide the legally mandated opportunities for women athletes making it sound like we are a bunch of prissy fairies dancing around the track in tutus and not serious athletes because we do not wear pads and helmets and play smashmouth football!
    I have ta bit of a problem with those masters athletes who use their degrees with their names when signing up for track meets – or signing their names on blogs etc. – I have a Ph.D. in history, I am a retired college professor, I do not sign up for meets as Dr. or Professor – that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do as a competitive athlete. But – as some like to say “what ever floats your boat”.

  25. Tyderick Williams - September 18, 2008

    Congrats Dr. Woods this is one of the greatess sports life to live

  26. DaJuan Thigpen - September 18, 2008

    Dr. Woods congratulations on accomplishing your goal that seems very difficult to reach. According to you the amount of work you put in, looks like the reults you receive in the end. Continue to follow accomplish your goals, and motivate athletes like myself to work hard and be determined to go above and beyond my opponents in terms of work ethic.

  27. Andrea Kehl - September 18, 2008

    There are no words left to describe the joy I feel after seeing this article and reading all comments mentioned before me.
    I praise God for who you were, who you are, and who you will become. My only regret is that I lost touch with you years ago and was unable to share your excitement and celebration.
    Continue to be “Toni” (as I know you will) and keep God first in your life always. When you get a moment (ha ha)shoot me an email.
    God Bless You
    Andrea (Ann)

  28. Vannie Prudhomme - September 18, 2008

    Congrads on your victory and for being an insperation…I to am trying to go to the olympics by the year 2012 and go to London. I may not get as mny medales as you in one day but i will get some in the 110 high hurdles and high jump lol…once again congrads and see you in class on friday :)

  29. Grant Lamothe - September 18, 2008

    To this comment that was posted yesterday, “but please…in (most of the)22 events all she did was show up… just doesn’t seem too hard to be the only competitor in a race, get a gold medal, and post a mediocre performance.”
    Maybe, maybe, for some events like, say, the 55m, but how about events that Lydia did like the steeplechase or the pole vault? Hey, you gotta FINISH the event which means getting over all the hurdles (which don’t fall over, YOU fall over if you him ’em) and water barriers or getting over the bar at least once. It’s arduous and even dangerous for one who’s not done the event much before. Don’t believe me, YOU try both those events then tell us about it.
    To the comment about using one’s academic or professional title when registering for a Masters track event …so what and who should care? And, in Lydia’s case I think there’s a good reason, as she uses her athletic background to motivate and guide her clients and in her work.
    On a positive note, Lydia, I’m looking forward to meeting you in Seattle next July.

  30. Terrence Thomas - September 18, 2008

    Dr Woods,
    I still can’t believe all the achievements. You are a monster on the track and an great professor all in one. Congrats

  31. Terrell Beasley - September 18, 2008

    Congratulations Dr. Woods,
    This is a truly remarkable achievement. The only one of its kind in the nation and dare I say, the world? You are an inspiration to many more than just myself and I just want to encourage you to keep it up!
    -Terrell Beasley

  32. Piled Higher & Deeper - September 19, 2008

    I’ve noticed the outpouring of response by Dr. Woods clients about her remarkable achievement. If you understand anything about track and field it’s barely an achievement at all. In the longer distance races her times are barely of a jogging pace. If you put her 5K and 10K times in the realm of road racing, where many women in her age group compete, she isn’t even in the top 75% percentile.
    If you want to look at her pole vault-it’s 4’6″. There are 4 women in her age group that high jump better than that.
    My comment about the lack of competitiveness is sadly a fact. If you look across many age groups in women’s masters track there are not many competitors. For a male athlete in virtually any age group, it would be impossible to come close to being ranked in multiple events. The only reason Dr. Woods was able to do it in her age group was the lack of competition in 20 of the 22 events.
    What about the pretentious display of all of her medals? I’d be willing to bet every penny I have that 90% of those medals were awarded by virtue of Dr. Woods being the only competitor in her age group in whatever event she entered.
    And to Grant-I have personally tried most of the events that Dr. Woods competed in and that is why
    I have an appreciation for athletes that can compete in them, with even an average performance. Dr. Woods touting of her accomplishments is nothing but vainglory.

  33. Daniel King - September 19, 2008

    Dr. Woods is my professor for Intro. to Tennis at 10am Fridays at Morehouse College. I had no idea she had accomplished such distinguished honors and feats, and I applaud her persistent efforts.

  34. Freddie Payton-Rankin - September 19, 2008

    Congrats Dr. Woods.

  35. Gary Grobman - September 19, 2008

    Reply to Grant–There is a lot of truth to this. I know from experience. Last year, I competed in the USATF Mid-Atlantic Regional Final, my first Master’s track meet. I ran a decent 5000, and finished second to Maurice Pointer, who finished the year ranked #1 nationally in the 5,000. My family was there, and it was really hot and humid, and they didn’t want to stick around for the 1500. So without really knowing what was on the schedule, I asked the officials if I could enter the next race. They said it was the Steeplechase and while the registration form said folks had to preregister, they said if I paid the 10 bucks, they would put me in the race.
    Assuming I got to the starting line in time, which was in about 10 minutes.
    Never had run a hurdle race before at any distance or level, but it looked easy enough, and there was an almost certainty that I would medal in the race by simply finishing–not unusual for many (if not most) Masters track races.
    So, I ran to the car to get 10 bucks. Then I ran into the stands and changed my shoes, JUST IN CASE I was unable to completely hurdle the water jump and ruin my new racing flats. Best decision I made all day.
    Got to the start line about a minute before showtime. I’m still drenched in sweat from my 5,000 but feeling somewhat elated as I had medaled in my first race.
    Crack! The gun goes off. I race to the lead, with almost no one keeping contact with me.
    I come up to the first hurdle.
    And I stop dead right up to the hurdle.
    No way I can see myself getting over that hurdle the way I see it on those televised track meets, which is the only way I had even seen a Steeplechase race.
    It looks about nine feet high to me, and there are no steps or ladder available.
    Takes what seems like a minute, but I figure out I can simply put both my hands on the hurdle and climb up and over it. Somewhat slower than hurdling, but I didn’t have any lunch plans. (Glad I didn’t have any dinner plans that evening, as well, considering my finishing time).
    After climbing over the hurdle, I am in last place, but I am sprinting to catch up to some of the other runners, who can hurdle, but aren’t that fast, and I spring by them.
    Until I come to the next hurdle.
    Again, it takes me a long time to get over this hurdle, and I am again in last place by the time I make it over.
    But I sprint pretty good, and now I come face-to-face with my first Steeplechase water jump. A rite of passage!
    Confidently, I climb of the hurdle, starting to gain some technique, this taking me only 10 seconds or so rather than a minute. As I climb down, however, I am getting the impression that the water at the bottom is a bit deeper than I expected, based on seeing races where the athletes barely make a splash after they hurdle the jump, assuming they don’t completely hurdle the jump.
    And in my confusion and consternation that this is becoming another, er, hurdle in my quest to eventually become the USATF national champion (M54 at that time), I trip and fall almost head first into the water.
    I am completely submerged.
    Some of you know that the water jump is tapered, and in the area close to the hurdle, the pit is perhaps 2-feet deep.
    The spectators (both of them, which is not a bad showing for typical Masters track meets), are laughing out of control.
    And I’m complaining that it is ridiculous to have a nationally-sanctioned event such as this with no lifeguard on duty at the water jump.
    I know that next time I do this event, if I do it (and it is unlikely I will ever do it), I will be wearing floaties.
    I finish in more than 15 minutes, dead last, humiliated, (several officials at nationals know me as a result of this race, and have reminded me at both Orono and Spokane how much they “enjoyed” my performance) but somewhat refreshed from the cool water of the pit. Perhaps, might have served as a refreshing vacation if there had been some sand placed around the pit area.
    My performance was good enough for the Bronze medal (as there were three in my age group). My time was also good enough to be ranked 12th nationally at the end of the year on the Master’s T&F rankings, so I guess I can brag that I was a nationally-ranked Steeplechaser last year, slightly higher than I was ranked in the 5,000. Which tells you something about the value of nationally rankings that usually include only the REALLY major meets such as the nationals supplemented by those who self-report.
    My guess is there have been no reported drownings of those who have raced the Steeplechase, but I know for a fact that there have been reported deaths from participants in the pole vault, including one recent case at Penn State. So, while I have had thoughts about trying this, I think I will pass, and limit my death-defying track exploits to possibly competing in the 5,000 and 10,000 at Clarmont next year, which may not be as bad as my experience in the USATF Eastern Regionals this year in Maryland where the 5000 was inexplicably scheduled for 3 p.m. on what might have been the hottest day of the year.

  36. Torrence Marunda - September 19, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    I am a student in your Wednesday morning Tennis class. Congratulations on your outstanding accomplishments! I know that you have the commitment and discipline to accomplish your dreams and to maintain a balanced life!

  37. Windsor Vega, Jr. - September 19, 2008

    In response to Freddie Payton-Rankin, Terrell Beasley,Janis Lane-Ewart:
    First of all let me introduce Dr. Lydia Woods-Howze. Dr. Woods-Howze is one of the sweetest, best loved individuals at her college campus and around the world. Judging by the negativity that you have introduced to this blog area it is likely that you represent only a small fraction of the goodness that Dr. L. Woods-Howze holds in her heart and her everyday walk with Christ. Why so negative, may I ask you? Where are your values? What are your morals? Jesus loves you.
    Furthermore, the Dr. Woods-Howze is a woman of high athletic achievement, as is made clear by the images of her extensive collection of medals. How many of you can profess to be as athletic and as engaged as she, while still maintaining a love for education and being a loving and caring wife, a mother, a mother-figure on an African American all male campus, and most importantly an educator for our future. In a nation where obesity is a rampant epidemic, Dr. Woods-Howze has maintained an active lifestyle. How many of you bloggers can say the same? Let me answer that for you, not many?
    You undermine her achievements; you personally attack and belittle her hard work. It is unbelievable that you can be so demeaning and so negative when referring to a living human being. How dare you. Who are you? You are the very haters that motivate this powerful creation of our God to give, and serve, and lead daily. She will continue to uplift and lead the academic village. In closing, I hope that you disrespectful and sinister individuals will utilize this time to reflect upon your negative actions, to better your character, yourselves, and your families and pass the torch of happiness. I will continue to pray for you and use you for motivation. May God be with you.

  38. Piled Higher & Deeper - September 22, 2008

    My Dear Mr. Vega;
    I know who I am, and understand achievements in the world of track and field. What is obvious Mr. Vega is that you know absolutely nothing of the workings of track and field. In my original post I spoke glowingly of Dr. Woods enthusiasm and spirit. Judged by the many students of her’s that have posted to the blog, I can see that she is an important and beloved member of your college community.
    What is unquestioned is that her supposed great accomplishment is less than it seems. It did take effort to compete in so may events, but many of her performances aren’t note worthy. They certainly don’t add up to a great track and field achievement.
    If you want to go into the religious aspects of this topic-where is her humility? Isn’t excess vanity one of the deadly sins? A true champion doesn’t flaunt his or her medals the way Dr. Woods does.
    I also stated in my original post that I hope Dr. Woods continues with her efforts in track and field, and continues to excel in the events where she has shown some truly fine performances. I just find it disheartening when she tries to create a mountain out of a molehill.

  39. Geotay - September 22, 2008

    Piled Higher and Deeper,so Michael Phelps is not a true champion? Seems to me he was on the cover the of SI “flaunting” his 8 medals! Ken Stone asked her to complete the interview, she did as requested. He decided that he would post the interview. I would like to say thanks for introducing us to the Dr. Anyone who takes on this goal is quite an individual. I do not think I would subject myself to the frustration of having to learn all of the events. She gives new meaning to the term “life long learner.” You go my sistah!

  40. Windsor Alejhandro Vega, Jr. - September 22, 2008

    ATTN: PHD PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER, I’ll deal with you in a few.
    Apologies first to Freddie Payton-Rankin, Janis Lane-Ewart, and my good friend Terrell Beasley, who is an excellent and outstanding competetive diver for the Morehouse College Diving Tiger Sharks. It was a big error on my behalf, I misread the blog. I will repost my statement in reference to the correct individual under the alias:
    As you read this, take a look at yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself, “Who am I.” First of all let me introduce Dr. Lydia Woods-Howze. Dr. Woods-Howze is one of the sweetest, best loved individuals at her college campus and around the world. Judging by the negativity that you have introduced to this blog area it is likely that you represent only a small fraction of the goodness that Dr. L. Woods-Howze holds in her heart and her everyday walk with Christ. Why so negative, may I ask you? Where are your values? What are your morals? Jesus loves you.
    Furthermore, the Dr. Woods-Howze is a woman of high athletic achievement, as is made clear by the images of her extensive collection of medals. How many of you can profess to be as athletic and as engaged as she, while still maintaining a love for education and being a loving and caring wife, a mother, a mother-figure on an African American all male campus, and most importantly an educator for our future. In a nation where obesity is a rampant epidemic, Dr. Woods-Howze has maintained an active lifestyle. How many of you bloggers can say the same? Let me answer that for you, not many?
    You undermine her achievements; you personally attack and belittle her hard work. It is unbelievable that you can be so demeaning and so negative when referring to a living human being. How dare you. Who are you? You are the very haters that motivate this powerful creation of our God to give, and serve, and lead daily. She will continue to uplift and lead the academic village. In closing, I hope that you disrespectful and sinister individuals will utilize this time to reflect upon your negative actions, to better your character, yourselves, and your families and pass the torch of happiness. I will continue to pray for you and use you for motivation. May God be with you.

  41. Piled Higher & Deeper - September 22, 2008

    There’s a bit of a difference between beating the best competition in the world and having the media portrait your story, than getting a bunch of medals for being the only person in a race, then self promoting your “accomplishments”.

  42. geotay - September 22, 2008

    Sorry Piled Higher and Deeper. You are very bitter and I am not sure why, however I am grateful to be introduced to the Dr. Thanks for the self promotion Dr. Woods!

  43. Piled Higher & Deeper - September 23, 2008

    No bitterness at all Geotay. I’ve applauded Dr. Woods for the events where she has excelled. It’s just not a major accomplishment to be ranked in the top 25 when in 20 of the 22 events there are less than a dozen people to be ranked, and her marks are last or next to last in most events on the list.

  44. Christopher McLean - September 23, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    I am awed and inspired by your story. It truly gave me motivation to succeed

  45. Willie Dwayne Francois III - September 23, 2008

    Dr. Wood
    Your athletic prowess is definitely superior. You feat is a testament to the history of African American women. This goal, or the Quest, was birth from your own volition. Trying despite the various barriers, namely age, alone is an inspiration. Your victories are catalysts of motivation for all of your students and fans.

  46. Kerry Payne - September 23, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    It is truly amazing to see you accomplished a dream that was not deferred but put on whole. We often tend to switch our dreams around to take the easy path or forget about the things that we want to do because things just get to hard. It is a blessing and a honor to see you stand before my class and have you teach us. Your story gives inspiration to all and relay the message that Dreams are real and anything is possible.

  47. Christopher McLean - September 24, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    I must admit that your story has truly inspired me. I feel motivated to succeed in all that I put my mind to. You are truly remarkable!

  48. Desmond Hill - September 29, 2008

    Dr Woods,
    Congrats on the historic accomplishment. I understand the hard work and dedication that goes into track and field. I have ran for 6 years and participated in the junior olympics. This is no easy feat mastering in different events such as the pole vault, 400 meters, and long jump. You not only proved that setting goals for yourself can pay off, but anybody of any age can compete at a high level as long as keeping up the hard work that goes along with it.

  49. Owaiian Jones - September 29, 2008

    Wow Congratulations Dr. Woods, all of ur accomplshments are truly amazing and inspirational.

  50. Jourdan C. Shepard - October 1, 2008

    Dr. Woods,
    You are truly an inspiration to all athletes! Many people would not even try to attempt one event that you have participated in after a certain point in life. Not only have you attempted to do something unheard of, you have excelled in it beyond any belief. I hope to have some of your determination rub off in me before this semester ends so I can do something that parallels what you have done.

  51. Ethan Taylor - October 2, 2008

    When I read this blog or article I was simply amazed. How do you have all of the energy to do it? I really admire you ambition as an athlete. If more athletes could have as much heart as you have, then the actual games would be a lot better. You are a blessings from God. Congrats on your historic accomplishments and keep up the GREAT work.

  52. Rashad R. Moore - October 6, 2008

    What shall we say to these things?
    You are truly an inspiration to all, especially me. I hope to pursue a life commitment to the ministry as well. Your achievements serve as a reminder to all that it is possible to do the impossible, no matter the goal. So the next time I think about quitting something, the name Dr. Lydia A. Woods-Howze will be all I need need to push me forward. I am pressing on, and I’m not turning back!
    Thanks for the Inspiration

  53. Keaton Willis - October 8, 2008

    Dr. Woods
    Congratulations on your many awards, keep up the great work, and i personal will be cheering for you.

  54. Jordon Nesmith - October 12, 2008

    I am truly proud to say that you, Dr. Woods are my teacher. Your such an inspiration to anyone who wishes to follow in your footsteps. Continue to follow your dreams and do your very best.

  55. Greg Newell - October 13, 2008

    i am very proud of you dr. woods.and congratulations

  56. Rodhime D. Mosley - January 16, 2010

    Great accomplishments Dr. Woods im looking forward to this semester in your Tennis and Fitness Class.

  57. adam Linton - January 19, 2010

    Wow! Dr. Woods im definitely impressed by your athleticism!… I a proud to have you as a professor.

  58. Tre'vell Anderson - January 20, 2010

    Good Job Mrs. Woods. I’m glad to have such an athletic teacher!

  59. Kristofor Glinton - January 20, 2010

    Wow!!! My only hope is to have half the determination and drive that you do, and the belief in myself to accomplish my goals. You are truly an inspiration to us all at Morehouse.

  60. Cameron Clay - January 21, 2010

    Great job. That’s really something to have multiple gold medals
    10:00-10:50 Tuesday Tennis Class
    Cameron Clay

  61. Evan Maurice Patterson - January 21, 2010

    What you have done is nothing short of astonishing! Congratulations.

  62. charlie wilson - January 21, 2010

    I would first like to say congrads on all of your medals and hard work. You should me true dedication, full effort, and hard work. This article really inspires me from all of your accomplishments. You really showed me that i can never give up no matter how hard somethings in life my get. Please continue to succeed in life as god want you to and inspire all others to follow your foot steps.

  63. Justin Jeffries - January 21, 2010

    This is incredible. I myself competed in the Decathlon in high school so I know first-hand how difficult this can be. My calves were the size of grapefruits for a week !!!

  64. Lydell Smith - January 21, 2010

    Dr. Woods,
    This is truely an example of setting goals and succeeding!! Your efforts have given me encouragement to strive for success daily. I feel that I can learn a lot from your discipline and determination!

  65. Lorenzo Beyah - January 21, 2010

    Dr. Woods,
    You are truly an inspiration, espicially for African American girl who aspire to be great. May you continue toward greatness!!!

  66. Muhammad Abdur-Rahman - January 21, 2010

    I am so pleased to be a student of such an accomplished woman. Dr. Woods is truly an inspiration to African American athletes

  67. Everett Dixon - January 21, 2010

    Oww! Simply amazing! I’m excited to start the course. A little scared. lol But excited, nevertheless. Every time I feel like giving up, I’ll think about all you’ve accomplished and get myself together!