It’s been almost 60 years since Bill Tidwell took his star turn at Emporia State, winning back-to-back national championships in the 880-yard run and mile in 1955 and 1956.
Or, as Tidwell puts it…
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“It’s ancient history,” Tidwell said with a chuckle. “I can’t believe people still care about it.”
People do still care about it, enough that Tidwell will take his place among the greatest athletes in Kansas history when he’s inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday in Wichita.
Tidwell said his athletic career isn’t something he ever thinks about. He went on to be the athletic director at Oberlin College from 1959 to 1971 and then at Emporia State until 1994.
He’s already a member of the Emporia State Hall of Fame and the NAIA Track and Field Hall of Fame and has lived on an acreage outside of Emporia with his wife, Kathy, for the last 30 years.
“My career is something I just put in the back of my mind,” Tidwell said. “I had a pretty challenging – and rewarding – professional career, and my own career was just so long ago that I don’t ever think about it.”
What Tidwell does recall about his time as an athlete was growing up the youngest of four boys in Kiowa, and feeling the influence of his older siblings.
“They were all athletes, and growing up in a small town you always were playing whatever sport was in season,” Tidwell said. “I just grew up running.”
His most memorable race is one he didn’t even win – a half-miler at an AAU meet in Denver when he was at Emporia State. Tidwell finished third.
“The top three guys all broke the world record at the time, and all finished within a half-second of each other,” Tidwell said. “And the guy that previously held the world record finished fifth.”
2014 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductees
Features on the 2014 class: