In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Brenda Morehead. Morehead, a Scott graduate, brought the city of Toledo fame in the 1970s as the United States' fastest female sprinter.
Brenda Morehead's ascent to fame was typical for her - it happened fast.
As a senior in high school in 1975, Brenda Morehead led Scott to the first Ohio girls track and field championship. She won the 100 and 200-meter races, the long jump and was part of the winning 400 relay. She set eight Ohio records while in high school.
Morehead went on to join the Tennessee State Tigerbelles, a legendary track team that boasts 58 Olympians and 30 medals in its history. Coached by Hall-of-Famer Ed Temple, Morehead's preparation under him her freshman year helped lead her to the 1976 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.
It was not Morehead's first prestigious meet. After competing for local track club Toledo Alive, her sophomore year in high school she made the U.S. junior national team and competed against the USSR in a meet in Austin. Morehead still remembers her second-place finish in the 100 there against a lanky, nearly 6-foot, Russian teen.
But in the Olympic Trials, at age 18, Morehead finished second to no one. She won the 100 and 200, breaking the 100 trials record with a time of 11.08 seconds and was hundredths of a second off the world record. Media hailed her as the next Wilma Rudolph, a former Tigerbelle.
At the Olympics in Montreal, Morehead pulled her hamstring in the second round of the 100. She raced in the third round the next day but did not qualify for the finals, and had to scratch from the 200 and the 400 relay because of the injury.
Brenda Morehead led Scott to a state title in 1975, winning the 100, 200 and long jump and running a leg on the 400 relay team.
Morehead set several American records during her college career and made the 1980 Olympic team. The U.S. boycotted the games, though, and her consolation was a trip to the White House. There she received a gold medal along with the rest of the team.
After earning her degree at Tennessee State, Morehead moved back to Toledo. She has two daughters, Brittany, 19, and India, 16, and is a guidance counselor at Robinson Junior High, also coaching the school's track team.
"I always felt that the strongest part of my race was my start. I have to attribute that to my coaches at Scott, Bob and Jill Hayden. They were very well-connected and very supportive. They went to extremes with me to make sure that I was able to go places early in high school. They would travel with me, drive me in their trailer."
"When I got to Tennessee State it was a wake-up call. We're talking training under a coach who had trained over 30 Olympians at the time. Part of the training program was cross country. I had never run cross country before. We also had time trials. I would always get stuck on the mile, you had to run it within a five-minute-something time frame. We also had to wear training shoes with weights in them. It was serious. I would always have to run the mile three to four times before I got my time. I realized once I made this transition that coach Temple knew what he was
"I don't know how many 18-year-olds know what they want out of life, and are conscious of their abilities at that time. I had the second-best time in the world in the 100. I wish I would have had the knowledge and
wisdom that I have now, back then. It was a lot to take in, but training under coach Temple, he had been used to winning for many years and that's what he expected. I knew what had gone through this school. I knew coach Temple had coached the greatest females in track and field. We had to fill some big shoes.
"Toledo started a fund to help my family travel to Montreal, and it was very nice. Otherwise my family wouldn't have been able to be there. They truly backed me and my family. They were very supportive and I always appreciated that. It is important to have when you are representing your country, and they did just that."
"Wilma Rudolph's daughter was on my team at Tennessee State. I think back on that, and I really felt sorry for her, but it really told me something ,too. People expected her to be like her mother. There was a lot of pressure on her and she wasn't half as good as her mother. It had an impact on her. I would never put that pressure on my daughters. I have never even really displayed trophies and medals. It was all at my mom's forever. I never surrounded them with that."
"We had a reunion last October in Indianapolis where the NCAA invited coach Temple and us. A lot of the Tigerbelles were there. I got a chance to meet the first Tigerbelle. It was a weekend of history. That's important to know that you have been part of building a history that's part of a tradition that will live forever and a day."
Contact Maureen Fulton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.
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