The track surrounding Maverick Stadium was officially dedicated in memory of longtime Lady Mavs track coach Emma Bennett on March 2, 2017. Coach Bennett passed away shortly before the decision was made to name the track in her honor. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Marshall News Messenger regarding the dedication ceremony:
Coach Bennett led the Lady Mavs track team to 10 straight district championships during the 1980s and 1990s, which marks the longest run of district championships in the history of any Marshall ISD athletic program.
School officials, along with Bennett's relatives, former athletes and community members all gathered on the track field to witness the historic unveiling. They were joined by two former athletic directors Bill Harper and Dennis Parker, who all shared fond memories of Bennett's winning feat.
"Emma Bennett was by far the best," said Parker.
"I feel sorry for the track coach at Marshall now because when you have to follow her...," he teased. "One thing that her girls did… they were first class win, lose or draw."
When he puts any coach against Bennett, he always ranks her as number one. Convincing her to be the girls track coach was one of the smartest moves he made in his career as AD in Marshall, he believes.
"When we came to Marshall in 1984, our girl athletics program did not exist," Parker said. "We didn't win in volleyball, we didn't win in basketball. We had five girls out for track. I went to beg Emma Bennett. She was at the middle school and she had 315 girls out for track."
Convincing her to try it for one year, she took the bull by the horns and the rest is history.
"Ten championships later, it's pretty good," said Parker. "Our girls athletic program took off from there."
Harper, who was athletic director for many of Bennett's achievements, described her as an outstanding teacher and great role model.
"As an athletic director, you always want a head coach from another sport where you don't have to do anything except brag," Harper said.
Donnya Robinson, who was Bennett's assistant track coach for five winning seasons, considers Bennett an "amazing person."
"We were in that era of winning. It floated through the entire Maverick family. The football team was winning and the track team was definitely winning," Robinson said, referring to the 1990-91 state championship season.
She recalled Bennett's words of wisdom when it came to having a good attitude, showing respect, never giving up and working together as a team.
"This was the winning pedigree coach Bennett instilled in all of us," said Robinson.
She said Bennett took pride in every aspect of the team from their appearance to their grades.
"It was important for our team to prepare for the next level, whether we were getting up at 3 a.m. in the morning to go out to the (Dallas/Fort Worth area) to run a track meet or if we were going to Texas Relays or some other level of competition. We represent Marshall, Texas with class.
"Emma was a great coach who made her athletes visualize what they could be rather than what they were," said Robinson. "She got the best effort from them by building a fire within. She had a passion for winning."
Robinson said she was truly an inspired beacon of light shining for all to see.
"She definitely accomplished greatness in her time," said Robinson. "I considered myself blessed to have worked with her, learned from …. I sincerely miss this real Maverick."
Bennett's former athlete Rhea Reed said Bennett taught her everything she knows about coaching.
"I'm now 21 years in coaching. I'm trying to build my own legacy at DeSoto High School in Dallas, Texas and I've been there for 19 years," she said. "I have athletes all over the country (attending colleges and universities). That came from an implementation of coach Bennett and what she taught and instilled in us as athletes and as young ladies and how to carry ourselves as women."
Bennett's grandson, Victor Bennett Jr., said his grandmother inspired him as well.
"If it wasn't for her and coach Harper himself, I don't think I would be coaching now," he said. "She never did anything for her. It was (for) Marshall. That was the thing even for me. That's what she preached about, being a better person for this community because she loved it here. This is home for her. This is my home."
Dennis Williams, who was assigned as Bennett's assistant track coach in the 90s, said Bennett was always fair, firm and friendly.
"She had high expectations," Williams said. "That's just the type of person Mrs. Bennett was. Her teams always ran and conducted themselves with class. They were held to a high standard of expectations.
Theressa Hudson and Roy Edwards, who were both administrators at MISD said it was a blessing to have Bennett on the administrative team after she retired from coaching.
"We needed her because we needed a (person) to help us with the discipline. We needed someone that was firm," Edwards said. "We found her in Emma Bennett."
Pct. 1 County Commissioner William Hatfield noted Bennett's zeal for not only the school district, but Harrison County where she served as commissioner for years.
"I just can't tell y'all what a great person she was, what a great mentor she was. With something like this, we need to realize and give her recognition for what she did for her constituents in Harrison County," Hatfield said. "That lady would fight for her folks. She would take care of her folks."
Standing next to her brothers Victor Bennett Sr. and Charles Bennett Jr., both of Dallas, Bennett's daughter, LaKay Christian, of Kansas City, thanked all for honoring their mother.
"Mother demonstrated commitment and dedication in everything that she did," Christian said. "She met challenges with an attitude that she could not, would not be (conquered). She loved God. She loved this community, her students and athletes in which she called her kids, (she loved) her family and her many friends. I know our mother is very proud of this accomplishment, but she cannot be as proud as we are."