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Fowlerville dedicates track complex to Judy Recker, who coached without a track

Judy Recker acknowledges spectators during a ceremony naming the Fowlerville track and field complex in her honor on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Bill Khan/Livingston Daily

FOWLERVILLE — When Judy Recker began coaching girls track and field at Fowlerville in 1973, she couldn’t imagine having the school’s track complex named in her honor.

Simply having a track would have been a luxury at the time.

“We didn’t have a track,” she said. “We ran in the fields, we ran in the streets; the kids just ran. They were good country girls, most of them, so they were used to running in the fields.”

After a few years, Copeland Construction graded an oval behind what is now Kreeger Elementary School.

“That was our track for a while,” Recker said. “We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. There was a track.”

These days, Fowlerville has a modern all-weather track separate from the football stadium and bleachers that were recently installed so spectators no longer had to bring their own chairs to meets.

The idea to name the complex after Recker was proposed by Reggie Talbot, owner of Reggie’s Barber and Beauty Salon in Fowlerville.

Judy Recker (right) hugs Reggie Talbot, who spoke during a ceremony naming the Fowlerville track and field complex in her honor on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Bill Khan/Livingston Daily

There was no figure in Fowlerville’s track and field history more fitting of the honor.

Recker has been part of the program in some capacity for 50 years, coaching the girls team for 25 years and announcing meets for the last 25 years as the “Voice of the ‘Ville.”

“She was a fantastic coach,” said Debi (Hughes) Douglass, who still holds the school 100- and 200-meter records (converted from imperial distances) set in 1974 and 1975, respectively.

“She’s part of the reason I am the woman I am today, because she’s a big part of my foundation. Judy’s been a mentor to so many women in the area. She’s a great example of the influence a coach can have.”

Douglass, who still lives in Fowlerville, is one of many former athletes who attended a ceremony naming the complex after Recker Tuesday during a meet against Williamston. Some former athletes came from as far away as North Carolina, flanking her along with her family while Talbot and Athletic Director Brian Osborn spoke.

Recker brought a track singlet originally worn by the 1974 team. Her 1973 team wore hand-me-down singlets from the boys team. One of her former athletes, Candy (Morse) Kleinschmidt, wore a T-shirt from 1977 proclaiming Fowlerville champions of the Ingham County League.

“She was somebody I admired and looked up to and have known my whole life,” Kleinschmidt said. “My family lived here; her family grew up here. My kids went to Fowlerville and had her for a teacher. My grandkids are going there. We have a lot of good memories from Judy.”

The event was like a class reunion for former athletes like Janet Wellman, who ran for Fowlerville in the 1970s.

The first jersey worn by Fowlerville’s girls track and field team in 1974 is displaved on the left next to a T-shirt worn this ear by current runners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Bill Khan/ Livingston Daily

“It brings back memories,” Wellman said. “It’s like, ‘Can we go on the track and run?’ ”

A board bearing her name with the school records and room to post meet results was unveiled. Many of her former athletes are still on the record board.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” she said. “I said to somebody today that in 50 years, somebody’s going to say, ‘Who is that lady? Who is that?’ It’s been a good ride.”

After 50 years, Recker hasn’t lost her passion for track and field.

“I just love to watch a track meet where so many kids are involved,” she said. “I love to watch those who started off down here and move up and give them encouragement.”

Recker graduated from Fowlerville in 1962 and began teaching physical education in the school district in 1968.

She is retired as a teacher, but has been the athletic director at the junior high school since 1995.

“It’s hard to get away from,” Recker said. “Somebody said, ‘Are you retiring for good this time?’ Well, I don’t know. Today, some kids came in and they needed some help. I thought, ‘Geez, maybe I should stay around one more year to help them.’ The good Lord has blessed me with good health. The Fowlerville community has been very supportive. I’ve been here almost my whole life. My parents were graduates of Fowlerville, so our roots go back a ways.”

Contact Bill Khan at wkhan@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.

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