By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky assistant track coach Debbie Ferguson McKenize won 52 medals in international meets and participated in five Olympics for the Bahamas where she won three medals. She also coached the Bahamian Olympic team one year.
She admits she did not always embrace the journey. She thought going to the Olympics “was the norm” and didn’t fully appreciate what qualifying for five straight Summer Olympics meant.
“I was just doing what I loved,” McKenize Green, who came from Houston to join UK’s staff after Lonnie Green was hired as head coach, said. “Now I realize it really was a major accomplishment to have the endurance to do that. I just didn’t realize then how big it was. I just thought everybody did it. I guess I was just a crazy person.
“My first Olympics (in 1996 in Atlanta), I cried the whole time. I was the baby on the team. I ran the semifinals of the 4×100 relay because I had got second at the (national) Trials in the 100 to get on the team. Then they didn’t let me run in the finals and I cried. I said this would never happen again. I could have chosen to never go compete again. Instead, I chose to make sure next time I was No. 1
“Everything student-athletes experience, I have done and I have walked that path and know what it feels like to not feel good enough or what it feels like to come back and crush it.”
She finished third in the 100 and 200 at the NCAA Championships as a freshman at Georgia. The next year she was second in both events.
“My junior year I did not know what was going on with my body. It got so tight I could not move and train. I had to redshirt, and I cried,” she said. “It’s like putting a horse in a stable when all it wants to do is run. I made a promise to myself to stretch properly, hydrate properly. I came back and won the NCAA in the 100 and 200. That was my dream. I didn’t know if it could happen but I made sure every day I was on the track or doing something to take care of business. That’s the message I make sure my athletes understand.”