The Bennetts are track and field legends in the CNMI and in Memphis, Tennessee. Yvonne is already a living legend in the CNMI with four consecutive NMASA Athlete of the Year awards and she is getting even faster while her father, Ambrose M. Bennett, was inducted into his undergraduate college's Athlete Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony for Ambrose was held at LeMoyne-Own College in Memphis, Tennessee last Feb. 9. LeMoyne-Own is a fully accredited Division AA college.
“While I was not be able to attend the ceremony my award was accepted by my elder son and daughter who still live in Memphis and my longtime friend and fellow member of Track Psi Phi, Jesse Willie Chatman. We viewed our team as a fraternity and Jesse Willie was our leader. While I had several scholarships in track and football to other colleges, it was Jesse Willie who convinced me [to go to LeMoyne] and the coaching staff to recruit me. Jesse Willie was not only a friend but a mentor and responsible for branding me with the nicknames 'Thin Win' and 'Mr. 440 yards' (today it is the 400m). I was well-known for my speed and the long white socks that would often thrill the crowds under the lights at night when I changed gears and speeded up at the 200m mark in the 400m race. Me being black and at night you could actually see my legs with the long white socks moving faster-I can still remember hearing the crowd woooo!” the elder Bennett reminisced.
He, however, avowed to the more important lessons he learned about life from running track and the education that he received from LeMoyne-Owen, which allowed him to become an educator, a James Madison Fellow, a Fulbright-Hays scholar, an author, and elected to the CNMI State Board of Education, and more.
“I am truly indebted to LeMoyne-Own and I am humbled and truly appreciative of being selected to the Athlete Hall of Fame-I will cherish this award for the rest of my life,” he added.
Bennett was recruited in 1968 from Northside High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The track events he ran include cross country, 100m, 200m, 400m, 400m relay, and the mile relay.
Some of his best times were 9.6 (100 yards), 21.1 (220 yards/200m), 45.8 (440yards/400m), and 153.7 (880 yards/800m).
The elder Bennett set 400m track records at various tracks in the TIAC and in the VSAC Conferences.
“I am most proud of the 45.8 in the 400m time that actually qualified me for the Olympic Trials in 1972, but I injured my foot two weeks before the Olympic Trials were held and couldn't attend. But I am still proud of my 45.8 time in the 400m which has stood for over 30 years and is still the record for LeMoyne-Owen's track and field. I contributed the most points to the track teams runner-up trophy in the TIAC Conference Championships in 1971, and I was the High Point Scorer/MVP in the VSAC Championship won by LeMoyne-Owen in 1972,” he said.
Yvonne getting even faster
As for Yvonne, Ambrose happily reported that her daughter's over-distance and weight training during the off-season is paying off.
“Yvonne is already a four-time winner of the Athlete of the Year and now she's even faster. She has lowered her personal best times in the 60m race twice with a 7.94 and later with a blistering 7.88. She improved on her 200m race with a 25.16 at the Jackson's Invitational Meet in Nampa, Idaho (Jan. 25). Recently, she was finally able to run the open 400m at the Bronco Classic Meet for the first time this season and she established a new personal best of 57.02 shaving off almost a whole second (0.82 of a second) from her previous best time of 57.84 last Feb. 2,” he said.
Most recently on Feb. 9 at the Nampa Idaho Center Indoor Track Idaho Team Challenge hosted by Boise State University, Ambrose said Yvonne eclipsed her Jan. 25 personal best in the 200m of 25.16 to an astounding 24.69, improving her old CNMI time by over a full second.
In addition to this feat, he said her daughter also anchored the BSU 4x400m relay with split of 55.7-the team ran also the second fastest time in BSU history which was second to their own record they set when Yvonne first joined the relay team.
“The amazing thing about her recent accomplishments indoors is that her 200m and 400m times will be much faster on an our door track with fewer and wider curves. Yvonne is approaching the top national rankings in the 200m and 400m and has gotten so fast that her coach is trying to recruit Yvonne to run another year even though she will be graduating because she still has another year of eligibility under NCAA rules, which Yvonne is seriously contemplating so she can work on her masters,” said Ambrose.
The elder Bennett said Yvonne is looking forward to running the 100m to better her time which would complete her sweep of improvements in all the sprint races.
He said her daughter is now concentrating on the fine-tuning of the many nuances in running to run even faster.
“Yvonne is truly striving to be the best that she can be in track and field and we can expect more accomplishments as this track season has only just begun. Yvonne sends her love and appreciation to her parents and family back home for always supporting her and believing in her. Yvonne wants to also thank the people of the CNMI who express their gratitude to her parents on her accomplishments,” he said.
Ambrose quoted Yvonne as saying: “My mom and dad are always giving me their messages of support from the people back home and it is truly inspiring for me to do even better.” (PR)