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Roland Dale coached track and field at SCHS for 27 years and cross country for 26. He had All-state runners and individual state champs, his teams finished third at the state in both sports, but he didn’t expect this.
Last week Dale found out he was being inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame for track and cross country at a banquet Saturday in Lexington.
“You know, you’re always surprised when your peers consider you for an honor like this,” he said.
Dale retired from teaching and coaching in 2002, but both have been hard to get out of his blood. He still substitute teaches, and he still works on some Saturdays as a meet official.
“I coached for 27 years, that’s a lot of Saturdays out there with the kids at meets,” he said. “Sometimes I still wake up on Saturday morning and wonder what time I have to get on the bus. I don’t coach anymore, but I love watching the kids compete and staying around the sports.”
Dale got started coaching the sport in Bondurant Junior High School in 1974, when he was just a student-teacher.
“They didn’t have anybody else to coach, and I knew a little about it, so they gave it to, you know how that goes,” he said. “They didn’t have anything, I had to make my own batons. I was the shop teacher, so I just fixed some up for us to use.”
Dale ran in high school and then walked on at Kentucky State and was there when the team won a national championship.
“I didn’t get to go, but I was just thrilled that they let me run with the team,” he said.
In 1975 Dale moved from Bondurant back to Shelby County, where he started helping another hall-of-fame coach, Larry Wingfield.
“Larry had just come from Bullitt Central, and I worked under him for five years before taking over the girls’ team when Charlotte Chowning retired,” he said. “Like anything else, it’s good to get experience under a really good coach. He was a great mentor for me, and I think he was my sponsor in getting this honor.”
As soon as Dale took over the girls’ program in 1980, success followed.
“I think we won 18 out of 20 regional titles,” he said. “They kept moving us around, region to region. For a while we had to go to Owensboro for the sub-state meet.”
The next year he took over a fledgling cross-country program, and again success followed.
During his 22 seasons as a head coach, Dale had runners go on to numerous college programs.
“I had a girl my first year go to Iowa State, and I had others go to Indiana State, Ole Miss, Eastern Kentucky and a host of other schools,” he said. “I was fortunate my whole time to have some great athletes. A coach is only as good as his team, and I had some really good ones.
"You can look in the trophy cases at the high school and see that. I didn’t win all those trophies; those athletes did.”
Staying active in the sports with officiating has given Dale the opportunity to watch from afar and see some outstanding athletes. Later this year he will officiate the SEC Indoor Championship meet at the University of Kentucky. Though the officials don’t get paid, he still enjoys it.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a way to stay active in the sport,” he said.