Eau Claire (WQOW) -- UW-Eau Claire sophomore sprinter Thurgood Dennis will lead the Blugolds into this weekend's WIAC Track & Field Championships in La Crosse.
UW-L has won 23 consecutive men's conference titles, but that streak could be in jeopardy. UWEC is ranked third nationally in Division III. Dennis won two events (100 meter dash, 200 meter dash) at the 2012 WIAC Championships, when he was named the track performer of the meet.
"When I was really little I used to run around a lot and I could usually escape from people playing tag," Dennis says, "but I didn't know I would be NCAA-caliber of fast."
Dennis has already captured an indoor national championship in the 60-meter dash, and is one of the most decorated runners in program history.
"Anytime you have a kid like him come into your program, that's a once or twice in a life time thing," says UWEC head coach Chip Schneider, "we knew coming out of high school that he was going to be special because he was just so raw. You could tell as a runner he had a lot to learn, but the natural talent was there."
And that talent is starting to bloom. Dennis enters the WIAC Championships with the top times in the 100, 200 and 400-meters.
"For me, I don't put pressure on myself," says Dennis, "I just want to better myself every meet. So if I can run a better top to bottom meet than last year, I'll be happy regardless of the place."
"He's not fast because of pure talent," Schneider says, "he works his butt off. He's here every day So there's not a secret to what he's doing. It's talent and hard work."
But Dennis' impact on UWEC athletics goes beyond the track. He was also a starting cornerback for the Blugolds football team this season.
"We got lucky that he wanted to play football and run track,"says Schneider, "because if he was just a track guy, he'd definitely be a division one athlete, he's got that kind of ability. So, we thank football every day that he wants to do both."
"I think about playing one sport all the time but then I think that I would be driving myself crazy thinking about what could have been in the other," says Dennis.
What could have been is no longer a question. It's how far he can go that drives Dennis now.
"I just don't want to get complacent," Dennis says, "keeping running faster, keep pressing my body and whatever my potential is, that's what I want to get to in these next two years."
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