Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the first time since 2008, the Etowah High track and field team will compete without Blake Hudson keeping time on his stopwatch and shouting out encouragement on the back stretch.
Hudson (pictured above at left), who also served as the school’s head girls basketball coach for the last two seasons, resigned both positions at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.
“I felt like it was as good a time as any to step away,” said Hudson. “I have two young sons at home who have started noticing how much time daddy is away from them. I chose to step away from coaching to spend more time with my boys. I spent 17 years teaching the guys and girls on my basketball teams how to play basketball, and 13 years teaching the guys and girls on my track team to compete in the various events of track and field. I tried to teach each of those athletes to push themselves to achieve greatness, not just in their sport but in their lives. I still have former players who see me in town and shake my hand or hug me and thank me for coaching them, however long ago it was.”
The track and field program at Etowah underwent an extensive refurbishment when Hudson took over prior to the 2008 season.
“When the city and school built a track around the football practice field, we saw it as a chance to start a team and build a program. In the beginning, all Etowah competed in were the running events. I eventually phoned in a favor and had a jumping pit dug and sand donated. We then started the throwing events with the best equipment we could afford. I then had concrete pads poured so my athletes could throw discus and shot and not have to stand in muddy grass. I got hurdles donated to us. The program now has every single piece of equipment needed to compete in the sport except a pole vault mat.”
In Hudson’s first season as track and field head coach, the upstart Blue Devils consisted of only 11 athletes – seven boys and four girls. Two athletes qualified for the state meet, starting a streak at least five EHS athletes qualifying for state every year since then.
For his career, Hudson coached 10 state champions. His 2019 boys team won four gold medals and two silver ones on the way to a third-place overall finish at the Class 5A state meet. The Blue Devils’ 4×100-meter relay team set a state record on the way to winning the gold medal.
“That group (Ollie Finch, Justin Harris, NyNy Davis and Deaundrea Williams) was really special,” said Hudson. “That record stood for 25 years, so it was a big accomplishment.”
Although his two seasons at the helm of the girls basketball team were not as successful as he would have liked, and COVID-19 quarantines kept him away from his players for almost a month during the heart of the season last year. Hudson, who played basketball at Etowah from 1996-1999, praised upon his former players.
“Those girls have a strong desire to win. They worked hard and were easy to coach. I really enjoyed my time as their head coach, and I wish them the best of luck in the future.”
Hudson left it in God’s hands when asked if he would ever pick up his coaching whistle again.
“I can’t tell you what the future holds, but I know who holds my future. I’m going take some time off and enjoy watching my boys grow up for a few years. When God tells me it’s time to coach again, I’ll listen.”