The Ron Whittaker Bulldog Invitational will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday on the Ron Whittaker Track. This annual event celebrates the rich legacy of a storied tradition that celebrates five state titles in boys track at Mexico High earned in 1942, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 2001. Ron Whittaker was the head track coach at MHS from 1968-1981 due to the urging of former MHS track coach and athletic director, the late Gary Filbert. Ron Whittaker is the current MSHSAA state meet referee for cross country and track and field.
Mitch Ridgway was the head track coach from 1987-2009 and led the MHS Track and Field Team to a 2001 State Championship.
"After established by Ron Whittaker in the 1970s, Mexico Track and Field ran deep throughout the years as they consistently won or competed for district titles each and every season,” he said. “That tradition has been preserved by numerous coaches: Darriel Douglas, Mitch Ridgway, Buck Green, Jim Kropf, Barry Hacker, Ray Heaton, Dan Quinlan, Jan Douglas and Steve Haag, each one aware and dedicated to the value of the program and its effect on our young people. Hundreds of youngsters and their parents have participated. Mexico is known state-wide for the support it receives with meet administration and parental support. Financial support provided by these parents, as well as many volunteers, allowed our school to construct the first eight-lane, all-weather track in the Mid-Missouri area."
Former Assistant Track Coach Jim Kropf added, "Mexico Track was a dominating sport in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. MHS was fortunate to have great track athletes, enthusiastic and knowledgeable coaches, and a well-established program. Our athletes took pride in being a part of a track program and worked hard to see it remain strong and successful. We, as coaches, had the responsibility to uphold an ethical program, develop the skill our athletes possessed and refine their talents. We set goals to have our track athletes perform to a high level and keep our program at a highly recognized one in the state track community. It was important to the coaches to encourage our athletes to be good students and be good role models in the community.
"The Mexico High School Track Program was superior to all the other high school track programs in the area. The coaches cared about the success of the program, but the MHS program had coaches that truly cared about the success of the athletes. This allowed and fostered both individual success as well as team success. That takes coaching and the ability to teach skill development to foster a TEAM approach, which was always emphasized and celebrated. The coaches always found a way to allow the good, average, athletes to have a place on the team. As a team, Mexico was well prepared, well coached, and hard working. There is really no limit, from the concept of a team sport, for what can be accomplished, when talented, well coached, well prepared athletes, are given an opportunity to succeed."
Steve Wolf, 17-year MHS coach, 11 years as head coach, said. "The Mexico High School 1976 State Championship Team could have defeated any track team in the state in a dual meet due to depth of quality and outstanding athletes. Each of the three State Championship meets had a unique feature. In 1975, MHS was the host school for the championship meet, the first and only State Championship venue for MHS. The Bulldogs needed at least a second place finish in the last event to win the state title. The 4-x-400 relay team placed second to win the 1975 State Championship title. In 1976, a close state meet with Hannibal, and again MHS needed a 2nd place finish in the last event to win the second state title in a row. The 4-x-400 relay team won the event and secured another state title. In 1977, the outcome didn't come down to the last event due to Bulldog success in earlier events. Mexico secured their third State Championship title for the third year in a row. MHS was state runner-up in 1978 and third in 1979," remembered Ron Whittaker, Head Track Coach from 1968-1981. "Even today, as I officiate track meets throughout the state, including State Championship meets, many former MHS runners, opponents, and parents reminisce about the days of the MHS state dominance of the 1974–1979 time period."
It has been a true honor to host track meets on the Ron Whittaker Track at Mexico High School and be able to represent the storied history of the Mexico Track Program. The Mexico Bulldog Track Program has a rich history across the state of Missouri as three coaches have been inducted into Track & Cross Country Hall of Fame: Ron Whittaker, Mitch Ridgway and Buck Green.