Corky Classic Kicks Off Indoor Season, Celebrates Life of Texas Tech Athletics’ Oglesby
It was a day Corky Oglesby would have loved — made possible by people who loved him as much as he loved Texas Tech Athletics.
The first Corky Classic track and field meet opened the university’s new Sports Performance Center on January 13 to rave reviews from fans, student-athletes and coaches from across the Big 12 Conference and the nation.
The meet started with a remembrance of Gerald “Corky” Oglesby, the former Texas Tech assistant basketball coach, head track and field coach and director of special projects for the Red Raider Club who died November 19 after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
It ended with Red Raider Trey Culver — the two-time defending NCAA indoor high jump champion — thrilling an overflow crowd with the fourth-best indoor jump in NCAA history and a school record, clearing 7 feet, 7¾ inches.
As Trey was warming up for the event, his brother Jarrett was across campus, scoring a basket to put the Red Raiders up over then-No. 2 West Virginia late in a Big 12 basketball showdown.
The game was shown on the Sports Performance Center’s 30-foot-wide video board in between track events.
The Red Raiders beat the Mountaineers, and the Corky Classic was a huge success.
It was fitting — the two sports Corky coached.
“Corky would have loved it,” said Wes Kittley, Texas Tech’s director of men’s and women’s track and field and cross country.
The day began with field events as the stands on the west side of the track filled up and student-athletes warmed up on the indoor football field east of the track.
“Wes and Tech have the best indoor facility in the state of Texas.”
“This is beautiful — we’ve been posting photos on our social media,” said Mario Sategna, track and field head coach for The University of Texas. “This is huge for the Big 12 Conference and will host great championships. It’s also great for us because we don’t have an indoor facility, and it’s close enough for us to take a bus ride or a short flight.”
“Wes and Tech have the best indoor facility in the state of Texas,” he said, adding, “we have great pride in our outdoor facility.”
Other track and field coaches echoed Sategna.
Baylor’s head track and field coach Todd Harbour said, “It’s amazing. It has everything. It’s a first-class job. A lot of thought went into it — the ability to warm up and see into the facility. It’s one of the best competitive venues in the country.”
Dennis Shaver, head track and field coach at LSU, said, “I’m really happy for Wes and Texas Tech. The overall plan of the warm-up area, the lighting and sound system — it is really nice.”
Oklahoma State and Houston also brought teams to the meet.
The hosting coach sometimes wondered if the day would arrive.
“It’s been an incredible five years of planning. I’m so proud Texas Tech invested in this Sports Performance Center. I’ve been here 19 years, and this is my baby,” said Kittley.
Opened on Oct. 20, the multi-sport facility is one of the marquee accomplishments of The Campaign for Fearless Champions. Funded by philanthropic gifts from alumni and fans, the $48 million building houses the Petersen Family Indoor Football Practice Facility, a strength and conditioning center, the Becky and Kelly Joy Sports Medicine Center and the PlainsCapital Bank Nutrition Center as well as the indoor track and field facility that has coaches talking nationwide.
Shortly before 1 p.m., a video honoring Corky played on the jumbo screen for the appreciative crowd.
“I knew Corky for a long time, he was a great, positive person,” said Sategna.
Then the meet was — literally — off and running.
In the crowded stands, Terry E. Fuller was feeling a mix of emotions.
“It was a very emotional day for me,” said the Texas Tech engineering grad and president of Phoenix Petrocorp, who has supported the track and field program with his money — the outdoor track and dressing rooms were donated by him — and time.
“I spent quite a bit of time with Corky as he was progressing through his treatments. I encouraged him to start setting some goals and doing some things together. We made several of those goals but not the last one to make the meet at the new facility,” he said.
Corky made it to the ribbon cutting for the Sports Performance Center.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Fuller.
“This will be a great venue for Texas Tech track for a long time.”
“Corky was looking down and smiling on all us — the day was the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of generosity from a lot of donors to make it all happen.
“It was a great day,” said Fuller. “It was good to see that many people supporting the track program.”
Official attendance for the meet was 1,077 people.
Similar events held in Texas Tech’s Athletic Training Center, which the Sports Performance Center replaced, seldom drew those kinds of numbers.
“When we had the old ATC, if you had a couple of hundred people it was a big crowd,” said Fuller. “Seeing more than a thousand [today] was a pretty good crowd. I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that…it was special. This will be a great venue for Texas Tech track for a long time.”
Red Raider All-American Steven Champlin heard more rave reviews from opposing runners about the state-of-the-art 200-meter banked Beynon Sports track, which has the widest radius built in the United States at 12.2 degrees.
“Everyone’s saying how fast the track is,” said Champlin, who specializes in the 400 meters.
Plans for the facility were only beginning to take form when he came to Texas Tech as a freshman from Castroville, Texas. Preparing for his first race inside the completed building, he had an adrenaline rush.
“I was extremely excited — it was a cool experience,” said the senior.
‘I'm a little jealous’
Also in the stands was Sharon Moultrie Bruner, Texas Tech’s first women’s All-American in track and field as a long jumper and sprinter in the early 1980s.
Bruner lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, and coaches track.
“I came just for this day in memory of Corky, but also to honor former coaches Jarvis Scott and Abe Brown — all passed away this past year,” she said.
The weekend also served as a reunion with her teammates.
When asked about the new facility, Bruner said some of her teammates who live in Lubbock had been giving her updates, but this was the first time she’d seen it.
“I’m a little jealous,” she said.
Teammate Sue Slutz of Lubbock was sitting in front of Bruner and added, “We didn’t even have a dressing room.”
By the time only a few high jumpers were still competing, the crowd was four-to-five deep around the north side of the track as people came from the basketball game.
The throng included freshman basketball guard Jarrett Culver and his parents — who came over from United Supermarkets Arena to watch the family’s other Division I student-athlete, Trey.
At 4:40 p.m. Trey cleared 7 feet, 6½ inches for the school record. Teammate Jake Benninghoff and former Red Raider and 2016 Olympian Bradley Adkins — who finished second — erupted with joy, as did the huge crowd.
The bar was raised to 7 feet, 7¾ inches.
Trey got ready to jump, raised his arms above his head and started to clap.
The crowd joined in.
With long strides the Red Raider senior took off toward the bar before sailing over, setting off an explosive celebration from the stands.
After he missed at 7 feet, 8¾ inches, the crowd gave Trey a standing ovation.
“It meant the most to me because of Corky,” he said afterward. “He was a big part of the university and today was about honoring him. I know he’s looking down and is proud of us.”
He also honored the people who packed the Sports Performance Center.
“The crowd was a big part of clearing [the bar] — and in my hometown,” said the Coronado High School grad.
His brother was also proud.
“It was unbelievable, it made me forget our game. I was amazed at what he did. It’s a blessing to be his brother. He talked about the Corky Classic — he wanted to do it for Corky,” said Jarrett. “It looked like he was having fun.”
‘I was hoping he would have been here’
Corky Oglesby accompanied Kittley to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships last summer.
“He went with me for years to as many meets as he could. He was our best fan and supporter,” said Kittley of the former coach, before adding that it was Corky who was responsible for getting Kittley hired.
But during that trip, Corky was sick.
Cancer was discovered when they returned to Lubbock.
Kittley was one of the speakers last August when a celebration of life was held to honor Corky.
That’s when Kittley announced the first meet held in the Sports Performance Center would be called the Corky Classic.
“I wanted to do something special for Corky,” said Kittley. “He knew it was going to be in his honor, and his legacy was going to be this meet.”
“I was hoping he would have been here to see it.”