African-American Athlete Tommy Haynes Reigns as Prime Challenger in Track and Field at MTSU

March 9, 2020, Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal

African-American Athlete Tommy Haynes Reigns as Prime Challenger in Track and Field at MTSU. Photograph is 1975 track meet for athlete extraordinaire Tommy Haynes. African-American Athlete Tommy Haynes Reigns as Prime Challenger in Track and Field at MTSU.

I thoroughly enjoy researching living history as much as ancestral narratives. A favorite athlete is an African-American Olympian from MTSU, who forged everlasting history for the college in 1976.

Thomas Zarlef Haynes was born July 14, 1952 in Nashville to parents Juanita and Thomas Haynes (1929-2014). His sisters were Janis and Carolyn. Tommy was a sensation as a long jumper as a teenager and president of his Senior class at North Nashville High School. He was also a key player on the 440-relay team. Throughout his timeline in Track and Field, he was often designated as team captain and held a reputation as versatile and competitive. At North High, Tommy attained a school record in Triple Jump at 54-6 ¾ and Long jump at 26-8-1/2. Tommy was pleased when he jumped beyond 26 feet.

After high school, Tommy was drawn to Tennessee Tech for an athletic sojourn. Yet, he fortunately found his way to MTSU in 1974 under the leadership of legendary coach Dean Hayes, who has magnificently headed the Track program for 54 years with 53 championships. Dean Hayes earned his Bachelor of Arts at Lake Forest, Illinois, where he competed in the Long jump and Triple jump, of which he qualified in the NCAA. His knowledge and skill of this specific Track expertise gave him great guidance to coach Tommy at MTSU.

Tommy arrived on the scene already long-jumping 22 to 23 feet. With tremendous assistance from Coach Hayes, Tommy enhanced that mark to 25 feet 11 inches in his freshman year. As a sophomore, he added the Triple Jump, coming within two inches of qualifying for the NCAA Nationals. He mostly competed in Triple Jump within his athletic career. Tommy’s height of 5 feet 10 inches at 165 pounds was an attribute in this sport.

As an MTSU sophomore, he participated in the Triple Jump for the first time. Hayes relates Tommy’s 2nd collegiate jump in his life was at a small Track meet with MTSU where Tommy posted 49/8 and qualified for an NCAA Championship.

Tommy soon moved on to win both the Long jump and Triple jump championships in the OVC and was a three-time All-American. Furthermore, he broke the NCAA record for Triple Jump. In 1975, he set a nationwide record in Triple Jump of 56 feet 5 ¼ inches in the Pan American Games in Mexico City winning a silver medal. Within this same year, he was ranked 3rd in the world.

Tommy set an American record of 56 ¾ in the Triple Jump in 1975. He was in Oregon in 1976 leaping 55/10 to qualify for the Olympic Team.

He further finished back-to-back first place finishes in the Long and Triple jump at the National AAU Championships in 1977. This feat had not been accomplished for both events for 50 years. He won the AAU Triple jump outdoors in 1976 and indoors in 1975-77. In the Long jump, he won the AAU indoors title in 1977.

Dr. Melvin Scarlett, president of MTSU, observed Tommy’s athletic gift with meticulous interest, while Scarlett had great desire to send athletes from the school to a national stage at the Olympics in Canada.

The highlight of Tommy’s athletic journey was representing the United States at the 1976 Montreal Olympics where he was team captain of the U.S. Olympic Team. Dean Hayes was his renowned coach for this event. Hayes also coached the late Brian Oldfield in shotput in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany; and he coached Rayfield Dupree in Triple Jump in the 1976 Montreal Games.

Tommy experienced walking into the Olympic Stadium as memorable and awe-inspiring as a 24 year old. He finished 5th in Triple Jump with 55 ¾. He conveyed later the event was a blessing to him.

Tommy sought intensive training in weights and utilized an early Nautilus in his routine. In the late 1970s, he was competing on a high level and traveling the world, as he prepared for his ultimate goal for the 1980 Olympics in Russia. He was also married at age 20 to Marilyn Butler, a wife of 46 years, and he was now a family man pursuing a spectacular athletic journey.

As he destined to join the U.S team for Olympic Gold in the Soviet Union in Moscow, a bombshell was proclaimed on March 21, 1980. While the Soviets failed to comply with President Jimmy Carter’s deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the United States response was to withhold the participation of 160 American athletes, including top contender Tommy Haynes. In the end, Jaak Uudmae of the Soviet Union won the Triple Jump at 56 feet 11 inches and a quarter without the strong competition from Tommy.

As I researched Tommy Haynes, I found he was a ‘man on the move’ with huge goals to attain in a very active and prominent life beyond athletics. He attended Graduate school in Long Island University in New York. He also served in the military as career officer and was Track coach at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point from 1977 to 1980. He coached the team to a 55-3-1 record and assisted in 1977 with a 9-0 Dual Meet record.Tommy’s children include Tommy Haynes, Jr, Gabriel Omar Haynes, Delicia Haynes and Carmen Guy. Delicia ran track at Western Hills High School in Kentucky with her sister Carmen; and Tommy was their coach. Delicia broke the record for Triple jump for the University of Louisville. She is now a medical doctor in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Tommy moved to Frankfort, Kentucky in 1994 to work in education reform. His efforts resulted in second in command to the deputy executive director. In retirement, Tommy was not one to sit down, as he heralded great ambition to seek public service. Upon arrival to Frankfort, Tommy sought community involvement and a role as civic leader. He was the president of the Kiwanis Club in Frankfort, and he held three consecutive terms as an active progressive City commissioner. In 2018, he did not run for re-election, as he cared for his wife Marilyn, who perished in the same year. In 2020, Tommy is running for a new elected position in Frankfort.Tommy Haynes was inducted into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. His professional personal best in Triple jump was 57 feet and one inch in 1975 and 26 feet and 8 inches for Long jump in 1974. In 2009, the Dean Hayes Stadium was dedicated in exciting fanfare; and one of the speakers was Tommy Haynes, who conveyed eloquently his admiration and respect for his former coach. In a current day, Tommy Haynes, at age 67, is our living historical personage for Rutherford County.

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