Kennedy continues tradition of excellence

Dale Kennedy has been coaching track and field for over 30 years, and shows no signs of stopping soon. Kennedy got his start at Pe Ell High School in Washington where he coached football, basketball and track. With only 79 students at the school, he has come a long way. Then he coached at Winlock High School; and later coached at his alma mater, Spokane’s Central Valley High School.

From there he moved to his first collegiate position at Spokane Community College. After success there he joined Montana State as head coach for Track and Field and Women’s Cross Country in 1981 and since has been a mainstay of MSU athletics.

While at MSU he has coached over 200 all-conference athletes, 35 individual NCAA qualifiers and seven athletes who have earned 10 All-American honors. He has also been influential in producing Olympic silver medalist Lance Deal and two-time NCAA pole vault champion Ellie Rudy.

Despite all of the individual success during his time, he hopes track and field moves more toward team scoring, rather than individual. “[What] our sport desperately needs is team scoring” he said. “My experience over the years show that when we have a team sports meet that kids step up at little higher level, and the idea is that we have to do this for the team.”

With this idea in mind he approached MSU Head Football Coach Jeff Choate to recruit even more talent.  “When Choate got hired I approached him to see if any of the players would be interested in joining track and field. He responded with, ‘Why not,’ he was the first coach in 35 years to say that,” Kennedy said.

Choate and Kennedy let the players decide if they wanted to join. While a couple players showed interest this season, junior Justin Paige was the first one to join this year.

After just two practice sessions with the team, Paige was ready to compete in meets. “He ran under 7 seconds in the 60 meters and that is what you need to be competitive at the Big Sky Conference Championship. It’s exciting,” Kennedy said.

In order to continue with his success he focuses on just one thing: “It’s just a matter of keeping people healthy. These kids’ immune systems are compromised between the demands of academics, the demands of training and community service they are spread thinner than I would like them to be. Rest and good nutrition are keys to keeping them healthy.”

After 35 years of coaching at MSU he hopes to continually remind anyone who will listen how much he enjoys track and field. “This is an exciting sport. It’s easy to understand. There are no x’s and o’s. Six people line up, the gun goes off and somebody gets to the finish line first. It’s exciting and it’s instant feedback immediately.”

The track and field team will compete at home in the Bozeman Running Company Dual Meet Invite on Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m., Feb. 3rd at 2 p.m., and Feb. 4 starting at 10:30 a.m.