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Ray Vaughn Classic honors legendary coach

Monday, April 7, 2008  
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By Sarah Gogarty

Track and field coach Randy Heath plans to attract students and fans to Oklahoma Christian University's campus Saturday April 5 for the 38th annual Ray Vaughn Classic Track and Field Meet.

For 37 years, the Ray Vaughn Classic has honored Vaughn and all he did for the track and field program and the university. Vaughn served Oklahoma Christian for 40 years as an athletic director, track coach and basketball coach, while also starting the physical education program at the university.

"Vaughn was really the father of OC athletics in its developmental stages," Heath said.

Vaughn's impact at Oklahoma Christian was more than just a coach to athletes. On a personal level, Vaughn influenced former student athletes and now assistant track and field coach Jeff Bennett. Like many new students to Oklahoma Christian, Bennett was unsure of what to think about college as a new freshman, and Vaughn was able to take him under his wing and help.

"Vaughn was like a father to me, I went to him for advice," Bennett said. "He was a very wise and level headed person who took a personal interest in his athletes."

More than just a sports coach, Vaughn was an example for Bennett through his spiritual walk as well.

"Many athletes like myself, came to Oklahoma Christian without solid spiritual backgrounds but finished here as faithful Christians," Bennett said. "Coach Vaughn's leadership and his example were instrumental in many of those conversions."

Vaughn affected many who had not even met him by what he did for the University. Like many others, track and field thrower John Branard has not directly been influenced by Vaughn, but his legacy has been passed through others.

"I do know that he really cared about the school and the athletic programs here," Branard said. "I've heard that he hand-picked Coach Heath as his predecessor, so that speaks volumes."

Both Heath and Bennett were coached by Vaughn, were assistant coaches to Vaughn and learned many things from him that they are able to pass on to their athletes now.

The Ray Vaughn classic still focuses on honoring Vaughn, but this year Bennett will also be honored. The new name for Thursday and Friday's women's heptathlon and men's decathlon will be the Oklahoma Christian Jeff Bennett Combined Events.

As a decathlete, Bennett was a member of the 1972 U.S. Summer Olympic games in Munich, Germany. To honor his accomplishments and his dedication to Oklahoma Christian and coaching, Heath named this part of the meet after Bennett.

Once described by Sports Illustrated as the "windiest track in America," Ray Vaughn Track can hit a runner hard turning the corner. When Bennett ran here he was challenged by the wind and still today he can see how it affects the runners.

"It was a challenge running and competing on one of the windiest tracks in the country," Bennett said. "Workouts were difficult, but it made us better when we went to places where there was not as much wind."

The wind not only affects running events; throwers and pole-vaulters benefit from adaptable areas to allow top performances.

"The winds today continue as they did when I was in school. We have learned to make the necessary adjustments in our workouts to minimize its effect," Bennett said. "Our track facility is set up with 2 throwing areas for each of the throws that are affected by the wind. Therefore we can throw in the direction that is most advantageous."

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