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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
SPRING HILL - As far as Fred Hudson is concerned, there is only one way to keep that bear off your back - work hard.
Hudson loved to tell his Springstead track athletes he could see the bear of fatigue climbing their backs on the last leg of a sprint or a relay. The more out of shape the athlete, the heavier the bear seemed.
The boys track team followed Hudson's hard-work approach to earn 11 conference titles, four district crowns and one region championship. After 23 years at the helm, Hudson decided to step down this season. He plans to spend more time with his wife as well as in ministry. He is the pastor of Healing Temple Ministries in Brooksville.
Raised by parents who refused to let him quit and instructed by coaches who shared their own version of tough love, Hudson always had a heart for track. The 1971 Hernando High graduate set a school record in the shot put with a throw of 47 feet that stood for a year before he enrolled at Bethune-Cookman College where he also competed. Hudson, who has five sisters and four brothers, finished college in three years.
He joined the staff at Springstead in 1977 and after a few years of coaching the junior varsity football team, he applied for the track coaching job. He got it and never turned back.
"He was very enthusiastic and got the kids involved, " said athletics director Bob Levija, who coached varsity football at the time.
From running hills in a sandy pit that used to be near County Line Road to training with plyometrics, Hudson's methods varied slightly over the years but his goals stayed the same. He wanted the athletes to have fun and improve. But sometimes, he admitted, that was hard.
"Who likes to run 2 miles?" Hudson asked. "So you've got to have some psychology along the way. ...Track is a great validator for making kids believe in themselves."
He never limited an athlete by telling him what he could or could not accomplish. He never gave up on an athlete, and he didn't hesitate to praise one for shaving seconds off his running time - often a result of running hills. Sharing in even a small success was just as thrilling to Hudson as watching athletes like Joel Nunag earn a state title 1990 in the pole vault.
"I liked to see the kids start from ground zero and get better, " Hudson said. "I just liked to see the kids get that sparkle on their faces when they run their first fast time."
Birthplace: Ashburn, Ga., roughly 90 minutes north of Florida. Hudson moved to Brooksville when he was 1.
Education: 1974 graduate of Bethune-Cookman College; 1971 graduate of Hernando High
Track accolades: Hudson started coaching the Springstead boys track team in 1983 and led the Eagles to 11 conference titles (1990-96; 1999-2002), four district titles (1995-96; 2000-01) and one region title (1996). The Eagles were conference runnerups in 1997-98. "We had a good, potent program, " Hudson said. "We used to just reload. The kids loved it."