In just three seasons as Ada’s track coach, Mart Leming transformed a program that had reached rock bottom by 2004 into one of the most respected in Class 5A this spring. Now he’ll try to work the same magic at Sulphur High School.

Leming resigned earlier this month at Ada, paving the way for him to become Sulphur’s head track and powerlifting coach and the defensive coordinator on a Bulldog football team coming off its worst season (3-7) in more than three decades.

“It was an extremely tough decision to make,” said Leming, who took a small group of athletes to a fourth-place finish at the state track meet last month. “My wife (Ashley) and I wrestled with the idea, and it finally came down to where we had to make a decision for both Sulphur and Ada.”

The Lemings were married June 2, and Mart Leming said the fact that his new wife will be teaching art at Sulphur High School played a major role in his decision to change jobs.

“That was really the deciding factor,” Leming said. “It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make to this point in my career.

“There were a lot of reasons to stay, and there were good reasons to go,” he added. “The people here were very understanding, and the people in Sulphur were very understanding, but, in the end, we felt like this was the best thing for both of us at this point.”

When Leming — who has also been an assistant on the Ada football squad since 2004 — volunteered to coach track in the spring of 2005, he took over a program that had sent just two athletes to the state meet the previous year. He recruited on campus and assembled a small but talented young team built around such outstanding freshmen as Chaz Daniels and Michael Roberts and had what — by the standards of the previous few years — was a very successful first spring season climaxed by a victory in the mile relay at the state meet. The Cougars followed with a sixth-place team finish with the boys squad in 2006 and a win by freshman three-sport star Jourdan Clark in the 300-meter hurdles on the girls side.

“I came to Ada at a good time, when there was a good amount of talent,” Leming recalled. “Chaz and Michael (who will be seniors this school year) are obviously very talented kids, and I’ll expect good things out of them and some other kids next year.

“Steffan Jones is a really good relay guy, and Colton Richardson was a kid who was on the mile relay team as a freshman,” he added. “That group of underclassmen (Richardson and three sophomores) ran the fastest time that’s been run by a mile relay team around here in a long time.”

Daniels has been one of the state’s most successful sprinters and Roberts one of its best middle distance runners the past three seasons, and both had outstanding state meets last month in Tulsa. Roberts was second in the 400 meters, while Daniels established himself as 5A’s fastest man, winning the 100 meters, anchoring the Cougars’ gold medal-winning 400-meter relay squad and finishing second in the 200 meters.

“I’m happy with the direction the track program is moving at Ada,” Leming said. “I really feel like there are some good young kids coming along who will blend in well with the kids who have been running.

“I think the biggest obstacle I found when I got here was to get the kids out,” he added. “Ada’s got quality kids, and the years I was here that became evident. It was just getting those kids out and getting them to believe in what we were doing.”Ada’s track success was built on athletes who also played football or basketball, and Leming said the cooperation of football coach Steve Dean was a key to his success the past couple of years.

“A big reason the track program was successful was the willingness of Coach Dean to trust me with those athletes,” Leming said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how important it is for coaches to work together.

“Steve allowed those football players to go out and be track athletes as well,” he added. “I owe a lot to him in that regard.”

Sulphur was a track power as recently as three years ago, but the graduation of a talented group of seniors (who also led the Bulldogs to two state football titles in three years, including an unbeaten season in 2004) drained the talent pool. Leming admitted he will face a rebuilding job in his first season at Sulphur but added that he expects to turn things around.

“What’s different in Sulphur from here in Ada is the numbers game,” he noted. “It’s a smaller school, and we won’t have as many athletes to choose from. We’ll be limited in that respect.

“Honestly (the track program) is a little down from what their expectations are, but I’ve spoken with the administration and the coaches, and they’re hoping we can get things moving in a positive direction,” Leming said. “When kids excel like (the 2004 and 2005 Sulphur track squads), the bar is set pretty high, and it’s tough on the kids who follow them. But it’s good to have high expections. That’s what makes champions.”

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