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Recalling Randy Wyatt’s sprint to glory for Paducah Tilghman

May 17, 2018 FieldsColumn

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In the 1986 state finals in the 100-meter dash, Paducah Tilghman eighth-grader Randy Wyatt, right, edged teammate Ed Watson to win the title.

 

BY MIKE FIELDS

Lyman Brown still laughs when he recalls his first encounter with Randy Wyatt.

It was the spring of 1986 and Brown, who had coached Paducah Tilghman to seven consecutive state track and field championships (on his way to 11 in a row), was getting ready for another season.

“Bill Bond was the head track coach at Paducah Middle School and he said, ‘I’ve got this kid I think you can use,’” Brown recounted. “I said, ‘You mean an eighth-grader? Send him over and I’ll see if he can make our freshman relays.’”

A week or so later, when Brown was getting ready to hold time trials before the first meet of the season, he told Bond to send the eighth-grader over so he could take a look at him.

“Little did I know the kid was going to have to run from the middle school to the high school – about 2 miles,” Brown said. “So we were out there waiting around for him, and I was starting to think Bill was pulling a prank on me.

“Then this frail-looking, skinny kid came running around the corner. He said he was looking for Coach Brown. I said, ‘You’ve got him.’ And he said, ‘My name’s Randy Wyatt.’”

Paducah Tilghman’s fastest sprinters had already run their heat, so Wyatt, after taking a quick breather, stepped onto the track for his 100-meter test with the slower group.

He won easily, but Brown could hardly believe Wyatt’s time of 10.9. So he told him the stopwatch had malfunctioned and that he needed to run again.

After taking a break, Wyatt ran another 100 heat, this time with Tilghman’s fastest sprinters.

“He beat them all,” Brown said. “We knew right then we had something.”

Something special, as it turned out.

As an eighth-grader Wyatt won the Class 3A 100- and 200-meter state titles, and ran a leg on Tilghman’s victorious 4×100 relay.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really surprised,” Wyatt said of his precocious performance. “I had a great support system that gave me a belief in myself. And that confidence helped me keep winning.”

He kept winning, and established one of the most dominant stretches for a track and field athlete in KHSAA history.

As a freshman, Wyatt swept the 100, 200 and 400 dashes. (He would have had a fourth win that year but Tilghman’s first-place 4×400 relay team was DQ’d.)

As a sophomore, he again ran away with the 100, 200 and 400 titles, and was on the winning 4×400 relay.

As a junior he added four more titles in the same events.

That gave him 14 state track titles in four years.

As it turned out, that was the end of Wyatt’s track career.

The summer before his senior year, Wyatt’s cousin, Connor Mason, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Mason, who was few years older than Wyatt, had also been a state champion sprinter at Tilghman.

“He was the person that turned me on to track, and when he was gone, I felt I didn’t have reason to keep running,” Wyatt said. “I wanted to shut it down, so I decided to play baseball my senior year.”

Randy Wyatt, who played on three consecutive state runner-up football teams at Paducah Tilghman, coached the Blue Tornado a state football title in 2009.

Despite his accomplishments in track, some people might better remember Wyatt as a football star. He helped Tilghman to three consecutive state runner-up finishes (1987-89), and went on to play college football at Louisville and Kentucky.

Wyatt also coached Tilghman football for six seasons (2008-13) and guided the Blue Tornado to the Class 3A state title in 2009.

But track was where he best showcased his talent.

Wyatt considered the 400 his best event because “I felt like the longer I ran the faster I got. I had more top-end speed.”

He credited Brown for helping him maximize his talent.

“Coach was a great motivator, he had great knowledge about track and field, and he was like a father figure to me,” Wyatt said. “He always gave me great advice. He always believed in me and that made me believe in myself.”

Brown, however, said Wyatt made himself a sprint star.

“You’d think a kid that good that young would be a prima donna but he wasn’t. Randy never slacked off. He had a tremendous attitude and worked his tail off.”

Wyatt put up some impressive winning times at the state, including 10.6 in the 100, 21.5 in the 200 and 48.2 in the 400.

While two of his cousins, Connor Mason and Shawn Jackson, still hold state records for Tilghman, Wyatt does not.

Brown thinks Wyatt would have run faster if it had been necessary.

“Honestly, Randy was never pushed,” Brown said.

One exception came in Wyatt’s junior year.

After Louisville Holy Cross star Aaron Payne beat Wyatt in the 55 meters in the Mason Dixon Games in February, Brown took Tilghman to Louisville two months later for the Doss Invitational. He wanted to give Wyatt another shot at Payne, and also at Fort Knox star William Pollard.

In a showdown of three sprint standouts, Wyatt won the 100 meters in 10.72, edging Payne and Pollard.

“That was the most exciting for me,” Wyatt said. “It was the first time I’d ever been at a meet where they stopped everything for everyone to watch one race. And it meant a lot to beat those two guys. They had already signed to play football (Payne with Ohio State and Pollard with Notre Dame).”

Fortunately for Paducah Tilghman, Wyatt is still involved in winning track and field championships. Following in the footsteps of Brown, who coached the Tornado to 14 state titles before retiring, Wyatt has guided his alma mater to 10 state championships.

While his passion for track and field hasn’t waned, Wyatt, 47, realizes he’s no longer built for speed.

“I can jog, but I can’t run or sprint anymore,” he said with a laugh.

Having raced to 14 state titles in his younger days, Randy Wyatt has earned the right to just jog.

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