Dual-Athlete Strives for Success


Story by Steve Fruehauf, Copy Editor

Entering high school, UW-Eau Claire sophomore Thurgood Dennis stood at just 5’1” and weighed only 98 pounds. But while he may have been small in stature, his dreams of becoming a successful athlete couldn’t have been bigger.

Dennis currently holds three different Eau Claire track and field school records in the 60-, 200- and 400-meter dash races. All were set his freshman year. Along with that, Dennis holds a starting spot on the Eau Claire football team that finished their season last week.

John Nowak, Dennis’ high school coach at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay for both sports, credits his success to a growth spurt late in his sophomore year of high school and the dedication to both sports he participated in.
“Once he got bigger, I mean the kid is one of the most dedicated athletes I ever coached,” Nowak said. “He lived in the weight room, he did all of the speed workouts, he never missed anything.  He was blessed with some God-given ability but he developed it through hard work.”

That hard work landed the now 5’11, 170-pound athlete two different Division-I half-scholarships to University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and UW-Madison for track and field coming out of his senior year. Due to the time each school offered at along with Dennis’ desire to play college football, he declined both offers.

Then after 15 different college tours, Dennis and his family decided Eau Claire was the best fit for him. He said that when he and his father toured here, they were forced to spend the night due to a large snowstorm that had hit the area. That night helped him make his final choice, Dennis said.

“We got to walk all around campus and experience a whole night here which was unexpected, but I actually ended up enjoying it a lot,” Dennis said.

He said the scenery, the people and the athletic competition continues to reassure him of his decision. But another thing Eau Claire offered him was the opportunity to play both football and track and field. Reflecting on the other schools that offered him the same deal, Dennis said he definitely chose the right school.

Although the football team struggled this season, he said he believes the next couple years will be very promising. His sophomore class and the class below him, he said, have shown a ton of potential.

Head Coach Todd Glaser agreed and said the coaching staff has high hopes for their team and specifically for their starting cornerback in the upcoming years.

“We think he’s going to be a great player,” Glaser said. “He needs to continue to work hard like he is. That work ethic is what will propel him into doing some great things.”

But now that the season is over, Dennis will be focusing more on track and field.

He said even though it’s early in the year, the team has already established their expectations for the season. He said they are looking for a national title, and with the incoming freshman class along with returning athletes, such a goal is reachable.

Dennis’ father, Bob Dennis, said he finds great pride in watching his son meet such success athletically. He said the real pride lies in watching his son develop into such an outstanding person at Eau Claire.

“I think Thurgood realizes the tremendous value of Eau Claire as a school and as a community,” Bob Dennis said. “It has given him so much more than we could have imagined. For our
family, we are tremendously proud of him.”