While former Shaw cross country head coach and decorated marathon runner Mike Stephens will be formally inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, there will be another individual inducted who made a name for herself via much shorter distances.
Kenya “Sue” Walton Caldwell, who excelled on the track both locally at Carver High School and collegiately at the University of Tennessee, will be one of five inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, with the ceremony to be held Saturday evening at the Convention and Trade Center.
Caldwell jumped onto the track scene while in high school at Carver under fellow Hall of Famer, coach Wallace Davis. She was named the All Bi-City Track and Field Athlete of the Year by the Columbus Track Club each of her four years as a Lady Tiger from 1987 to 1990. She was a state champion in the 100-meter sprint in her junior and senior years. In her senior year of 1990, she also was a state champion in the 200-meter, long jump, and helped her team to the state title in the 4x100 relay as well. She was named the 1990 Georgia Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year for her accomplishments.
“Going to Carver was a great experience for me,” Caldwell said. “I tell everybody that being under Coach Davis in particular prepared me for college athletically. The toughness that Coach Davis had on us, once I got to college, I thought it was easy there compared to being at Carver.
“Coach Davis taught me and prepared me to succeed. That was his main goal. He always used to tell me he saw good things in me and I could do great. I started believing that. Now I can tell him I’m in the Hall of Fame with him.”
She headed from one Columbus to another for college, landing at Ohio State briefly for her freshman year. The move from Tiger to Buckeye was following in the footsteps of her brother, Tim, who was also named to the Hall of Fame last year.
“It was a little too cold for me being from the South, so I was able to transfer to Tennessee and finish out my career there,” Caldwell said. “I’m not a cold-weather person, so I had to get back south.”
She headed to Knoxville for college after her first year, where she rewrote some of the Lady Vols track record books. Her best 200-meter outdoor (22.94 seconds) and indoor (23.23) times, and her indoor and outdoor long jump personal bests (20 feet, 10.75 inches) all still rank in the top four in Tennessee women’s track program history. She was named a nine-time All-American at UT and was also named as a member of the UT Athletic Hall of Fame.
“To be at a university like Tennessee with a powerhouse track program in the SEC, to still have those records is amazing,” Caldwell said. “They get the best athletes and they recruit. To be considered one of the best athletes there and to be in their Hall of Fame is a big accomplishment.”
Caldwell was also named a Southeastern Conference Female Comeback Athlete of the Year, recovering from major knee surgery to return to the level of excellence she had prior to her injury.
“The doctors told me I couldn’t be competitive again (after the injury),” Caldwell said. “It was a shocker. Being around my coaches and trainers, they said take it one day at a time and see what they could do. They thought they could get me back to being ready. I ended up under Jenny Moshak, who was one of the best trainers at Tennessee. She took time with me every day to get me back on my feet. Working with her day in and day out got me back ready and on a competitive level.
“To hear that news was devastating at first, but I had good people in my corner who wanted to see what they could do. The rigorous rehab and the commitment the trainers and I made help make it happen.”
Caldwell also participated in Olympic trials in both 1992 and 1996, participating in the 100 and 200 meter both years and the long jump in 1992.
“The thing about both years was that I was coming off knee surgeries,” Caldwell said. “It was a good experience to be able to go and participate, but I also knew it’d be difficult to make the team. I enjoyed it. I wanted to go despite not being 100 percent healthy, but no excuses…it was a great honor to even be able to say I made it to the trials.”
On Saturday, Caldwell will join her brother in the Hall of Fame as two athletes who helped put Columbus on the map outside of the area.
“I was excited for my brother last year, so being able to come two years in a row is big,” Caldwell said. “He was a hard worker and taught me a lot of things, so to see him succeed and do the things he did and try to follow in his footsteps is a good feeling.”