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(L to R) Tommy Asinga, Edith Nakiyingi, Victor Thomas, Joey Haines
Courtesy: Chris Donahue

Drake Relays Hall of Fame Class of 2012 Inducted In Evening Ceremony

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: April 26, 2012
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DES MOINES, Iowa--Four new members joined the Drake Relays Hall of Fame on Thursday evening in a ceremony held at Sheslow Auditorium on the Drake University campus. The class of 2012 features four individuals who have made a tremendous impact on "America's Athletic Classic" through their accomplishments as coaches or competitors.

Victor Thomas, head track and field coach at Lincoln University in Missouri, whose athletes have won 39 Drake Relays titles since 1996, and Joey Haines, former head track and field coach at Southeast Missouri State joined the Coaches Hall of Fame. Former Eastern Michigan standout Tommy Asinga (uh-SING-guh) and former NCAA champion and Iowa State star Edith Nakiyingi (naw-kee-ENG-gee) were inducted into the Athletes Hall of Fame.

Thomas and Haines are the 80th and 81st inductees into the Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame, which was established in 1977 with charter members John L. Griffith (Drake), Harry Gill (Illinois), Tom E. Jones (Wisconsin), Clyde Littlefield (Texas), Leo Johnson (Illinois) and Bill Easton (Drake & Kansas).

Thomas has coached his women's team to 10 NCAA Division II National Championships, four indoor and six outdoor. His team's first title came in 2003 at the outdoor national championships, where his athletes won seven events, one short of the record for first-place finishes at the Division II level. He went on to coach his team to five consecutive outdoor national championships (2003-07), and won the outdoor title again in 2009.

"I feel great and I appreciate Brian and the committee that nominated me and got me here," Thomas said. "I feel good to know we have won enough relays to be recognized here. It's an outstanding feeling for me. This is something that will never change in the next 100 years. The fans here (are special), the atmosphere when you win, and they get interviewed and they're on TV. You get that flag and run around the track as everybody cheers. They just cheer them as winners, not that they're from Lincoln, they just cheer them and congratulate them. The fans are very important at the Drake Relays."

More than 40 student-athletes have won national championships under Thomas' tutelage. He also has coached 14 relay national champions and more than 150 All-Americans. Thomas has been the head coach of the Jamaican Junior Pan American Games National Team, the C.A.C Games National Team and has been on the senior Pan American Games team coaching staff as a hurdles coach.

Thomas also tutored three Olympic athletes during his coaching career, including 1992 Olympian Ralston Wright, Veronica Findley (1984 and '88) and Mitchell Francis (1994). Thomas also has shared his expertise with 1995 and '97 World University Games hurdler Patrina Allen.

Haines was the head track and field coach at Southeast Missouri State from 1982 until his retirement following the 2008 season. His teams dominated the college division of the Drake Relays throughout the 1980s, as he coached his team to 11 Drake Relays event titles in that span.

"You can't imagine what a great day this is for me," said Haines. "I also want to congratulate the other inductees. It's an honor to be inducted with you guys. My first Drake Relays was in 1969 and it was also my first airplane flight."

Haines led Southeast Missouri State to the 1985 NCAA Division II National Championship, while his men's and women's teams claimed 18 NCAA Division II top-four finishes in both indoor and outdoor track and field. He coached 23 individual NCAA National Champions and was named NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year in 1985.

Among the Drake Relays victories by Southeast Missouri State athletes under Haines are the University/College 4x100 men's discus in 2004; college men's 4x800 relay, 1986; college men's 4x200 relay, 1983 and '84; college men's distance medley relay, 1986; college men's sprint medley relay, 1983 and '84; college men's 4x100 relay, 1982 and '84 and college men's 4x400 relay 1984 and 1990.

Asinga was a familiar name over the Drake Relays public address system in the early 1990s as one of the nation's top collegiate middle-distance runners. He ran the anchor leg to lead his relay team to three consecutive Drake Relays university division titles in the 4x800 relay from 1992-94 (6th in 1991).

"I couldn't believe it," Asinga said about hearing news of his induction. "Even though I came here and I had a really great time here, I didn't realize how great of an impact I had while I was here. After the races how the fans reacted, especially the victory lap, for me that was probably the greatest thing of all because I ran in many competitions. Even at the NCAAs I won the 4x800 and was second one year, but they just usher you off the track. Here at Drake they give you the time and no one really rushes you. The fans are just excellent. For us athletes it means so much just recognizing that."

Asinga also ran the anchor leg in leading Eastern Michigan to university division sprint medley relay titles in 1993 and '94. As a sophomore, he won the Drake Relays special invitational 800 in 1992. Asinga is a five-time All-American at Eastern Michigan and competed in the 1988, '92 and '96 Summer Olympics, representing Suriname.

Nakiyingi entered her first Drake Relays 800 meters as a freshman in 1988 and set the event record with a time of 2:03.18. She continued her Relays success by winning the university/college division 800 in 1989 and '91, and claiming the women's invitational 800 in 1990.

"It is something that was unexpected," Nakiyingi said of her choice for the Hall of Fame. "I was very surprised, and at the same time very happy for being recognized for what I had done here. My first race (at Drake), I was just a freshman, and I won that race for the record of the Drake Relays. I'm very happy to be here again."

In 1992 Nakiyingi was named the Big Eight Conference Female Athlete of the Year. She is a two-time NCAA champion in the 800-meter run and earned All-America honors seven times while competing for Iowa State (three indoor, four outdoor).  Nakiyingi is a member of the Iowa State women's track and field Hall of Fame.

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